AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on December 9, 2013 at 6:02 AM

Thousands of South African police prepare for mourners, statesmen coming to Mandela ceremony

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Thousands of South African police officers will be on hand at a ceremony honoring Nelson Mandela in a Soweto soccer stadium, and authorities will block access to the site if crowds become too large, officials said Monday.

Mourners including dozens heads of state are expected to flock to the 95,000-capacity stadium for Tuesday's memorial for the anti-apartheid icon. Mandela made his last public appearance at the same stadium for the closing ceremony of the 2010 World Cup, when the venue was called Soccer City.

Lt. Gen. Solomon Makgale, a spokesman for the South African Police Service, said "thousands" of officers will direct traffic, protect mourners and help the bodyguards of visiting dignitaries.

"We will be on hand to make sure people are able to grieve in a safe environment," Makgale told The Associated Press.

Makgale said a joint taskforce of police, diplomats and intelligence service personnel already have been making plans and talking to the foreign delegations who plan to attend the ceremony.

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Obama to pay tribute to Mandela, attend memorial service in South Africa

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will pay tribute this week to Nelson Mandela, making the long trip from Washington to South Africa Monday to attend a national memorial service for the anti-apartheid icon.

Tuesday's memorial service will also serve as a rare reunion of nearly all the living American presidents. George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, will accompany Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on Air Force One, while former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter will travel separately to South Africa.

George H.W. Bush is the only living president who will not attend. His spokesman said the 89-year-old is no longer able to travel long distances.

The American leaders will join dozens of other dignitaries and tens of thousands of mourners at the memorial service at a Johannesburg stadium. Mandela will be buried Dec. 15, following a state funeral in his hometown of Qunu.

Obama has called Mandela a personal hero, and his own political rise has drawn inevitable comparisons to the former South African leader. Each was his nation's first black president and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize — though those close to the U.S. leader say he is aware of the vast differences in the politicians' experiences.

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Powerful storm moving up East Coast dumps snow, travel headaches abound

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A plodding storm that dumped heavy snow on the unsuspecting Mid-Atlantic region threatened to make roads dicey in the northeast corridor for Monday's commute while travel disruptions continued to ripple across the country days after the same system first began wreaking havoc in the skies.

The seemingly never-ending storm that coated parts of Texas in ice struck with unexpected force on the East Coast, blanketing some spots in a foot of snow and grinding highways to a halt.

Travel problems could linger into Monday afternoon, with freezing rain and icy conditions sticking around as wintry weather stretched from Missouri to Maine.

The storm canceled more than 2,500 flights Sunday and delayed thousands more, according to estimates from the website Flightaware.com. More than 1,000 of Monday's flights were already canceled, the greatest share from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which was still reeling from the effects of the ice storm that brought North Texas to a standstill.

The forecast for Monday remained up in the air for the northeast, depending on how quickly the system moves and temperatures rise, according to the National Weather Service. Meanwhile, a winter storm warning was in effect until 10 a.m. for Washington, D.C., and Baltimore where up to a quarter inch of ice was expected because of freezing rain that could cause power outages.

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More socially liberal, America's new rich are wielding power but may foil income equality

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's not just the wealthiest 1 percent.

Fully 20 percent of U.S. adults become rich for parts of their lives, wielding outsize influence on America's economy and politics. This little-known group may pose the biggest barrier to reducing the nation's income inequality.

The growing numbers of the U.S. poor have been well documented, but survey data provided to The Associated Press detail the flip side of the record income gap — the rise of the "new rich."

Made up largely of older professionals, working married couples and more educated singles, the new rich are those with household income of $250,000 or more at some point during their working lives. That puts them, if sometimes temporarily, in the top 2 percent of earners.

Even outside periods of unusual wealth, members of this group generally hover in the $100,000-plus income range, keeping them in the top 20 percent of earners.

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Congress ready to renew plastic gun curb as Newtown anniversary underscores lack of gains

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate vote to renew an expiring ban on plastic firearms capable of evading metal detectors and X-ray machines is shaping up as a bittersweet moment for gun control supporters, days before the anniversary of the deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Monday's vote to extend the prohibition on plastic guns for another decade responds to a growing threat from steadily improving 3-D printers that can produce such weapons. But gun control advocates seem sure to lose an effort to impose additional, tougher restrictions on plastic firearms — a harsh reminder of their failure to enact any new federal gun curbs in the year since 20 first-graders and six educators were murdered in Newtown, Conn.

The slayings last Dec. 14 prompted the newly re-elected President Barack Obama to push gun control to the top of his domestic agenda. But Congress approved nothing, and gun control advocates face the same uphill struggle in 2014, complicated by internal divisions over what their next step should be.

"The gun lobby still has enormous power in Washington — more, frankly, than I thought they still had," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who represented Newtown last year while in the House.

Illustrating the roadblocks that have thwarted gun control forces, an effort by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to make plastic guns more detectable by requiring them to have a permanent metal part seems certain to fail Monday. His plan is opposed by Republicans and the National Rifle Association.

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Thai PM dissolves Parliament, calls elections as 150,000 march in Bangkok streets

BANGKOK (AP) — Desperate to defuse Thailand's deepening political crisis, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Monday said she is dissolving the lower house of Parliament and called for early elections. But the moves did nothing to stem a growing tide of more than 150,000 protesters vowing to overthrow her in one of the nation's largest demonstrations in years.

Analysts said the steps come too late and are unlikely to satisfy opponents who want to rid Thailand of her powerful family's influence. The protesters are pushing for a non-elected "people's council" to replace her democratically elected government.

Thailand has been plagued by major bouts of upheaval Yingluck's brother Thaksin was toppled in a 2006 army coup that laid bare a deeper conflict between the elite and the educated middle-class against Thaksin's power base in the countryside, which benefited from populist policies designed to win over the rural poor.

An attempt by Yingluck's party last month to pass a bill through Parliament that would have granted amnesty to Thaksin and others triggered the latest round of unrest.

"After listening to opinions from all sides, I have decided to request a royal decree to dissolve Parliament," said Yingluck, her voice shaking as she spoke in a nationally televised address Monday morning that broke into regular programing. "There will be new elections according to the democratic system."

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North Korea purges Kim Jong Un's influential uncle over "depraved life" of corruption, drugs

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea announced Monday it had sacked leader Kim Jong Un's uncle, long considered the country's No. 2 power, saying corruption, drug use, gambling, womanizing and generally leading a "dissolute and depraved life" had caused Pyongyang's highest-profile fall from grace since Kim took power two years ago.

The removal of Jang Song Thaek, once seen as Kim's mentor, is the most significant in a series of purges the young leader has conducted in an apparent effort to bolster his power since his father's 2011 death. But worries remained over whether the expulsion of such a senior figure could instead lead to less stability and open up the possibility of a power struggle.

The confirmation that Pyongyang had "eliminated Jang and purged his group," carried in an unusually detailed and lengthy dispatch by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, was seen by some analysts as a warning against dissent. It came about a week after South Korea's spy agency said that two of Jang's closest assistants had been executed for corruption.

North Korean state TV showed a still image of two uniformed guards holding Jang by the arms at a meeting of the country's Political Bureau as dozens of dark-suited officials seated behind rows of long desks looked on.

With tensions on the Korean Peninsula still high following a torrent of threats in March and April by Kim's government against Washington, Seoul and Tokyo, there were fears in Seoul that confusion in the North could lead to a miscalculation or attack. Experts believe Pyongyang has a handful of crude nuclear bombs. South Korea's defense ministry said there have been no suspicious military movements, however.

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Family of Pa. Amish schoolhouse shooter shares hopeful story of forgiveness, reconciliation

STRASBURG, Pa. (AP) — Once a week, Terri Roberts spends time with a 13-year-old Amish girl named Rosanna who sits in a wheelchair and eats through a tube. Roberts bathes her, sings to her, reads her stories. She can only guess what's going on inside Rosanna's mind because the girl can't talk.

Roberts' son did this to her.

Seven years ago, Charles Carl Roberts IV barricaded himself inside an Amish schoolhouse near Lancaster, tied up 10 girls and opened fire, killing five and injuring five others before committing suicide as police closed in.

The Amish responded by offering immediate forgiveness to the killer — even attending his funeral — and embracing his family.

Terri Roberts forgave, too, and now she is sharing her experience with others, saying the world needs more stories about the power of forgiveness and the importance of seeking joy through adversity.

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Riot police deployed near protest strongholds in Ukrainian capital Kiev

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of riot police in full gear have moved into the center of the Ukrainan capital where opposition activists have been occupying a city administration building and a central square.

President Viktor Yanukovych has faced weeks of protests after shelving a treaty with the European Union last month to focus on ties with Moscow. A rally on Sunday drew hundreds of thousands of protesters calling for Yanukovych's ouster.

The government has been demanding that the protests disperse and threatened harsh measures.

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Hagel to meet with Pakistan's prime minister; first US defense chief to go since 2010

ISLAMABAD (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Pakistan Monday for meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the nation's new army chief, hoping to further repair a strained and sputtering relationship between Washington and Islamabad.

His visit comes on the heels of the latest interruption of U.S. military shipments out of Afghanistan through the main border crossings into Pakistan. Anti-American protests along the route in Pakistan prompted the U.S. to stop the shipments from Torkham Gate through Karachi last week, due to worries about the safety of the truckers.

The protests center on the CIA's drone program, which has targeted and killed many terrorists but has also caused civilian casualties. Pakistan has called the drone attacks a violation of the country's sovereignty, but the issue is muddied by the fact that Islamabad and the Pakistani military have supported at least some of the strikes in the past.

Sharif's office said in a statement the prime minister and Hagel had "in-depth exchanges on a whole range of issues of mutual interest" including bilateral defense, security cooperation and Afghanistan. Sharif's office also said the prime minister conveyed Pakistan's deep concern over continuing US drone strikes, "stressing that drone strikes were counter-productive to our efforts to combat terrorism and extremism on an enduring basis," the statement said.

Shireen Mazari, the information secretary for the political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said in a statement Monday it's time for the government to speak forcefully to the U.S. to demand an end to the drone attacks. The party is leading the protests.

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