Monday November 12, 2012

Obama honors U.S. veterans, says country must commit to always serving them

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama paid tribute at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to "the heroes over the generations who have served this country of ours with distinction."

He said the wreath he laid earlier at Tomb of the Unknowns was intended to remember every service member who has worn a uniform and served the nation.

In a speech at the Memorial Amphitheater during the brisk, sunny morning, Obama said America will never forget the sacrifice made by its veterans and their families.

"No ceremony or parade, no hug or handshake is enough to truly honor that service," the president said, adding that the country must commit every day "to serving you as well as you’ve served us."

He spoke of the Sept. 11 generation, "who stepped forward when the Towers fell, and in the years since have stepped into history, writing one of the greatest chapters in military service our country has ever known. You’ve toppled a dictator and battled an insurgency in Iraq. You pushed back the Taliban and decimated al-Qaida in Afghanistan. You delivered justice to Osama bin Laden."

Israel fires at Syria for first time after mortar fire hits military base

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel was drawn into the fighting in neighboring Syria for the first time Sunday, firing warning shots across the border after an errant mortar shell landed near an Israeli military installation in the Golan Heights.

While Israel appeared eager to calm the situation, its response was a potent reminder of how easily the Syrian civil war -- already spilling across borders with Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan -- could explode into a wider regional conflagration.

Israeli officials threatened even tougher retaliation if attacks persist.

They have feared that the instability in Syria over the past 19 months could spill across the border into Israel, particularly as President Bashar Assad’s grip on power grows increasingly precarious.

Israel has little love for Assad, who has provided refuge and support to Israel’s bitterest enemies through the years. But the Syrian leader -- and his father before him -- have kept the frontier quiet for nearly four decades, providing a rare source of stability in the volatile region.

Petraeus paramour sent harassing emails to woman who worked at State Department

WASHINGTON (AP) -- David Petraeus never shied away from the public eye before in times of crises. Now, he might not have a choice.

As details emerged about his extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, including a second woman who allegedly received threatening emails from the author, members of Congress said Sunday they want to know exactly when the now ex-CIA director and retired general popped up in the FBI inquiry, whether national security was compromised and why they weren’t told sooner.

"We received no advanced notice. It was like a lightning bolt," said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee.

A senior U.S. military official identified the second woman Jill Kelley, 37, who lives in Tampa, Fla., and serves as the State Department’s liaison to the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, where among other duties, secret drone missions are worked on.

The military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation, said Kelley had received harassing emails from Broadwell, which led the FBI to examine her email account and eventually discover her relationship with Petraeus.

Moved by images of Sandy’s devastation, Katrina survivors repay kindness shown

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The chaos wrought by Superstorm Sandy, the homes tossed from foundations and landmarks buried beneath seawater, delivered a gut-wrenching dose of deja vu for survivors of Hurricane Katrina like Joe and Gloria Robert.

Their own home flooded beneath 7 feet of salty water when the levees broke after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005, and they know all too well what their countrymen to the north will face: years of debris removal, cleanup, rebuilding, haggling with insurance companies, paying mortgages on homes left unlivable. And they knew they had to help.

"When you watch things like this, you relive all the memories, all the heartache," said Joe Robert, his voice cracking with emotion. He said the images of Sandy victims rummaging through what could be salvaged of their toppled and flood-ravaged homes were painful reminders of his own loss. "I don’t have any pictures of my daughter when she was little."

Seven years after Katrina destroyed neighborhoods, killed more than 1,800 people and caused some $108 billion in damage, many of the people caught in its crosshairs are reaching into their wallets and cupboards to try to bring relief to the Atlantic Coast.

Church groups, nonprofits, City Hall and individuals in New Orleans and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast have begun sending care packages, donating money and staging volunteers for the clean-up and recovery efforts.

About 150K without power from storms; many homes too damaged to get power

NEW YORK (AP) -- New Yorkers railed Sunday against a utility that has lagged behind others in restoring power two weeks after the superstorm that socked the region, criticizing its slow pace as well as a dearth of information.

At least 150,000 people in New York and New Jersey remained without power Sunday, including tens of thousands of homes and businesses that were too damaged to receive power at all. More than 8 million lost power during the storm, and some during a later nor’easter.

The lack of power restoration for a relative few in the densely populated region at the heart of the storm reinforced Sandy’s fractured effect on the area: tragic and vicious to some, merely a nuisance to others.

Perhaps none of the utilities have drawn criticism as widespread, or as harsh, as the Long Island Power Authority. More than 60,000 of the homes and businesses it serves were still without power Sunday, and another 55,000 couldn’t safely connect even though their local grid was back online because their wiring and other equipment had been flooded. It would need to be repaired or inspected before those homes could regain power, LIPA said.

Customers told of calling LIPA multiple times a day for updates and getting no answer, or contradictory advice.

Bond soars with record $87.8M from U.S. debut; worldwide haul climbs to $500M

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- James Bond’s "Skyfall" has extended its worldwide box-office rule to North America, hauling in a franchise-record $87.8 million in its first weekend at U.S. theaters.

Adding in $2.2 million from Thursday night previews at IMAX and other large-format theaters, "Skyfall" has taken in $90 million domestically, according to studio estimates Sunday.

That lifts the worldwide total for "Skyfall" to $518.6 million since it began rolling out overseas in late October. Internationally, the 23rd Bond flick added $89 million this weekend to raise its overseas revenue to $428.6 million.

Judy Garland’s Oz dress fetches $480K in auction

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) -- Judy Garland’s blue gingham dress she wore in "The Wizard of Oz" has sold for $480,000.

Auction house Julien’s Auctions says the pinafore fetched the highest price of any item during a two-day auction of Hollywood memorabilia that attracted bids from around the world. The auction ended Saturday in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Steve McQueen’s racing jacket sold for $50,000, as did a purple skirt worn by Marilyn Monroe while filming "River of No Return" in Canada. Julie Andrews’ "Sound of Music dress" brought $38,400.

Sunglasses worn by Jean Reno in "Leon" went for $8,320, while Johnny Depp’s shades fetched $3,250.

Bidders also snapped up pieces of royal wedding cakes. Prince William and Kate Middleton’s cake sold for $7,500 while Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s cake sold for $1,375.

2 Calif. deaths from mushrooms despite warnings

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The deaths of two residents of a Northern California assisted living facility and the hospitalization of four others come despite warnings from health officials not to eat mushrooms picked in the wild.

As far back as October 2009, the California Department of Public Health issued a statement warning that eating wild mushrooms can cause serious illness or death.

According to state data, there were more than 1,700 reported cases of mushroom ingestion in California in 2009 and 2010. They included 10 cases of serious poisoning and two deaths, including an 82-year-old Santa Barbara man who died after cooking wild mushrooms with his steak.

Most recently, two residents of the Gold Age Villa in Loomis died after eating soup with wild mushrooms that had been prepared by a caregiver.