Thursday December 6, 2012

Egypt descends into political turmoil over constitution crisis

CAIRO (AP) -- Supporters and opponents of Egyptian leader Mohammed Morsi fought with rocks, firebombs and sticks outside the presidential palace in Cairo on Wednesday in large-scale clashes that marked the worst violence of a deepening crisis over the disputed constitution.

Egypt’s Health Ministry said 126 people were wounded in the clashes that were still raging hours after nightfall.

Three of Morsi’s aides resigned in protest of his handling of the crisis. With two aides who had quit earlier, now five of his panel of 17 advisers have left their jobs since the problems began.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading opposition advocate of reform and democracy, said Morsi’s rule was "no different" from that of former President Hosni Mubarak, whose authoritarian regime was toppled in an uprising nearly two years ago.

"In fact, it is perhaps even worse," the Nobel Peace Laureate told a news conference after he accused the president’s supporters of a "vicious and deliberate" attack on peaceful demonstrators.

Obama warns GOP about adding threat
of national default
to ‘fiscal cliff’ talks

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hewing to a hard line, President Barack Obama warned congressional Republicans on Wednesday not to inject the threat of a government default into complex fiscal cliff negotiations aimed at avoiding year-end tax increases and spending cuts that could harm the economy.

"It’s not a game I will play," declared Obama as Republicans struggled to find their footing in talks with a recently re-elected president and unified congressional Democrats.

Among the Republicans, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma became the latest to break ranks and say he could support Obama’s demand for an increase in tax rates at upper incomes as part of a comprehensive plan to cut federal deficits.

Across the Capitol, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Republicans want to "sit down with the president. We want to talk specifics." He noted that the GOP had made a compromise offer earlier in the week and the White House had rejected it.

Since then, neither Obama nor congressional Democrats have signaled interest in negotiations that both sides say are essential to a compromise. Presidential aides have even encouraged speculation that Obama is willing to let the economy go over the "fiscal cliff" if necessary and gamble that the public blames Republicans for any fallout.

Syrian civil war spills into Lebanon as rebels fight near Damascus

TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AP) -- Gunmen loyal to opposite sides in neighboring Syria’s civil war battled on Wednesday in the streets of a northern Lebanese city where two days of clashes have killed at least six people and wounded more than 50, officials said.

The Lebanese army fanned out in the city of Tripoli in an attempt to calm the fighting, with soldiers patrolling the streets in armored personnel carriers and manning checkpoints. Authorities closed major roads because of sniper fire.

The fighting comes at a time of deep uncertainty in Syria, with rebels fighting government troops near Assad’s seat of power in Damascus.

In Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated concerns that "an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons" or lose control of them to militant groups.

She also said NATO’s decision on Tuesday to send Patriot missiles to Turkey’s southern border with Syria sends a message that Ankara is backed by its allies. The missiles are intended only for defensive purposes, she said.

Poll: Support for boosting taxes on rich; fewer now back cutting services

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans prefer letting tax cuts expire for the country’s top earners, as President Barack Obama insists, while support has declined for cutting government services to curb budget deficits, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows. Fewer than half the Republicans polled favor continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

There’s also a reluctance to trim Social Security, Medicare or defense programs, three of the biggest drivers of federal spending, the survey released Wednesday found. The results could strengthen Obama’s hand in his fiscal cliff duel with Republicans, in which he wants to raise taxes on the rich and cut spending by less than the GOP wants.

As Obama and Republicans joust over ways to avoid tumbling over the cliff when the new year begins, the poll offers scant evidence that the public is willing to sacrifice much when it comes to specific cuts in the name of budget austerity.

Social Security, Medicare and defense account for just over half the $3.8 trillion the government is projected to spend this year. Voters typically voice support for deficit reduction but shy away from painful, detailed cuts to achieve it.

In the poll, 48 percent said tax cuts should expire in January on earnings over $250,000 but continue for lower incomes. An additional 32 percent said the tax cuts should continue for everybody, which has been the view of Republican lawmakers who say raising taxes on the wealthy would squelch their ability to create jobs. Thirteen percent said the tax cuts dating back to 2001 and 2003 should end for all.

Pioneering jazz composer and pianist Dave Brubeck dies

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Jazz composer and pianist Dave Brubeck, whose pioneering style in pieces such as "Take Five" caught listeners’ ears with exotic, challenging rhythms, has died. He was 91.

Brubeck, who lived in Wilton, died Wednesday morning at Norwalk Hospital of heart failure after being stricken while on his way to a cardiology appointment with his son Darius, said his manager Russell Gloyd. Brubeck would have turned 92 on Thursday.

Brubeck had a career that spanned almost all American jazz since World War II. He formed The Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951 and was the first modern jazz musician to be pictured on the cover of Time magazine -- on Nov. 8, 1954 -- and he helped define the swinging, smoky rhythms of 1950s and ‘60s club jazz.

George Wein, a jazz pianist and founder of the Newport Jazz Festival, had known Brubeck since he first worked in Wein’s club in Boston in 1952.

"No one else played like Dave Brubeck," he said. "No one had the approach to the music that he did. That approach communicated."

Pushed subway rider’s daughter says it ‘would have been great’ if someone helped him

NEW YORK (AP) -- The daughter of a New York City man pushed to his death onto the subway tracks in front of a train says it "would have been great" if someone had helped him up but "what’s done is done."

Ki-Suck Han of Queens was apparently trying to break up a fight when he landed on the tracks Monday. The New York Post published a photo on its front page Tuesday of Han with his head turned toward the train, his arms reaching up but unable to climb off the tracks.

Han’s only child, 20-year-old Ashley, said Wednesday that he was always willing to help others.

A pastor says Han’s family was so distraught after seeing the Post’s photo that they had to stay with him.

A homeless man was arrested Wednesday in Han’s death. Mystery grows surrounding 11-year-old leukemia patient who may be in Mexico

PHOENIX (AP) -- The mystery surrounding the whereabouts of a sick girl with leukemia deepened Wednesday after her father said his 11-year-old daughter is being treated in Mexico and authorities considered bringing child neglect charges against the family.

Phoenix police have been looking for Emily since surveillance video one week ago showed the girl’s mother walking her out of Phoenix Children’s Hospital a day before the child was set to be released.

Authorities are searching for the girl in Arizona, California and Mexico, where the family has relatives, as doctors say she could contract a potentially deadly infection if not returned for treatment.

The girl underwent about a month of chemotherapy and had been treated for an infection that forced doctors to amputate her arm, police said. Doctors had inserted a tube through her chest to deliver medications through her heart. Her mother unhooked the tubing from an IV and left with the girl, leaving her susceptible to infection.

Phoenix police said the parents could face criminal neglect charges if they didn’t return the girl.

Starbucks to open more than 1,500 cafes in the U.S. as part of growth plans

NEW YORK (AP) -- Another Starbucks may soon pop up around the corner, with the world’s biggest coffee company planning to add at least 1,500 cafes in the U.S. over the next five years.

The plan, which would boost the number of Starbucks cafes in the country by about 13 percent, was announced at the company’s investor day in New York Wednesday. Taking into account Canada and South America, the company plans to add a total of 3,000 new cafes in its broader Americas region.

Worldwide, the company says it will have more than 20,000 cafes by 2014, up from its current count of about 18,000. Much of that growth will come from China, which the company says will surpass Canada as its second-biggest market.

Although Starbucks has been intensifying its growth overseas and building its packaged-goods business back at home, the majority of its revenue still comes from its more than 11,100 cafes in the United States.

In an interview ahead of its investor day, CEO Howard Schultz said the U.S. expansion plans are based "on the current strength of our business"

University releases
e-mails from after its student allegedly opened fire in theater

DENVER (AP) -- Newly released documents show officials at the University of Colorado feared for their safety after a graduate student there was identified as the suspect in the Aurora movie shooting.

The internal emails were among several thousand documents released Wednesday under Colorado’s Open Records Act.

The trove is heavily redacted because the university said it would violate federal privacy laws to release information about James Holmes’ academic performance or medical issues.

Holmes’ attorneys say he is mentally ill and that he withdrew from the school’s neuroscience program after failing a final exam.

The department chair wrote in an email that she feared for the safety of students and faculty at the medical school. Police at the time were trying to remove booby-traps they said Holmes had left at his apartment.