Monday December 17, 2012

Right to carry a loaded gun in public could be next big Supreme Court battle over guns

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The next big issue in the national debate over guns -- whether people have a right to be armed in public -- is moving closer to Supreme Court review.

A provocative ruling by a panel of federal appeals court judges in Chicago struck down the only statewide ban on carrying concealed weapons, in Illinois. The ruling is somewhat at odds with those of other federal courts that have largely upheld state and local gun laws, including restrictions on concealed weapons, since the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling declaring that people have a right to have a gun for self-defense.

In, 2008, the court voted 5-4 in District of Columbia v. Heller to strike down Washington’s ban on handgun ownership and focused mainly on the right to defend one’s own home. The court left for another day how broadly the Second Amendment may protect gun rights in other settings.

Legal scholars say the competing appellate rulings mean that day is drawing near for a new high court case on gun rights.

The appeals court ruling in Chicago came early in a week that ended with the mass shooting in Connecticut that left 28 people dead, including 20 children at an elementary school and the presumed gunman.


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Syrian vice president says regime, rebels both losing in civil war, no military decision

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syria’s longtime vice president says both sides are going down a losing path after 21 months of civil war, as rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad advance on the battlefield.

Farouk al-Sharaa told a Lebanese newspaper that neither the rebels nor the Assad regime can "decide the battle militarily."

Al-Sharaa spoke to the newspaper Al Alkhbar as rebel forces were moving closer to Damascus, Assad’s seat of power. He appeared to be trying to show that the rebels are not the solution to the Syrian conflict, and their victory might bring chaos to the country.

Balancing that, he said the Assad regime "cannot achieve change."

Excerpts of the interview were posted on Al-Akhbar’s English-language website late Sunday.

Lacking money, experience, rebels try to run Syrian town plagued by water, power shortages

MAARET MISREEN, Syria (AP) -- The anti-regime locals who have thrown together a ramshackle administration to run this northern Syrian town have one main struggle: Finding money to keep their community alive. Like other nearby rebel-held towns, Maaret Misreen is broke.

Many of the town’s 45,000 residents are out of work. There’s no cash to keep water or electricity running, so they come on only sporadically. Prices have skyrocketed. Long lines form at the only working bakery for miles around, creating vulnerable potential targets for airstrikes.

This week, the town’s main mosque preacher, Abdel Rahim Attoun -- who now doubles as the town judge -- appealed to worshippers to chip in to buy fuel for communal water pumps. He asked each family to donate 200 Syrian pounds, a little under $3, the cost of a large bunch of bananas.

But even that’s too much for many residents, so no one is being forced to donate, said 29-year-old Amer Ahmado, who is an electronics engineer but was picked by the newly formed local council for the job of managing the town’s meager finances.

The situation is repeated across the swath of rebel-controlled territory in northwestern Syria, said Zafer Amoura, a lawyer who represents Maaret Misreen in an emerging provincial council. Communities are now cut off from the national government that helped keep them running, and locals forming impromptu administrations try to meet the needs of daily life amid the civil war.

Egypt rights groups say constitutional referendum marred by violations, call for repeat

CAIRO (AP) -- Egyptian rights groups called Sunday for a repeat of the first round of the constitutional referendum, alleging the vote was marred by widespread violations. Islamists who back the disputed charter claimed they were in the lead with a majority of "yes" votes, though official results have not been announced.

Representatives of seven rights groups charged that there was insufficient supervision by judges in Saturday’s vote in 10 of Egypt’s 27 provinces and independent monitors were prevented from witnessing vote counts.

The representatives told a news conference that they had reports of individuals falsely identifying themselves as judges, of women prevented from voting and that members of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood were allowed inside polling stations. They also complained that some polling centers closed earlier than scheduled and that Christians were denied entry to polling stations.

Mohamed ElBaradei, Egypt’s best known reform leader, was as frustrated by how the referendum was run as the rights groups.

"Is a referendum held under insufficient judicial supervision, clearly tenuous security and the violence and violations we are witnessing the road to stability or playing with the country’s destiny?" the Nobel Peace Laureate and former U.N. nuclear agency chief wrote on his Twitter account.

Conservative LDP, after 3 years in opposition, returns to power in Japan with landslide win

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party returned to power in a landslide election victory Sunday after three years in opposition, according to unofficial results, signaling a rightward shift in the government that could further heighten tensions with China, a key economic partner as well as rival.

The victory means that the hawkish former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will get a second chance to lead the nation after a one-year stint in 2006-2007. He would be Japan’s seventh prime minister in six-and-a-half years.

In the first election since the March 11, 2011, earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters, atomic energy ended up not being a major election issue even though polls show about 80 percent of Japanese want to phase out nuclear power.

Public broadcaster NHK’s tally showed that the LDP, which ruled Japan for most of the post-World War II era until it was dumped in 2009, won 294 seats in the 480-seat lower house of parliament. Official results were not expected until Monday morning.

LDP, the most pro-nuclear power party, had 118 seats before the election. A new, staunchly anti-nuclear power party won just nine seats, according to NHK.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
faints, sustains concussion

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who skipped an overseas trip this past week because of a stomach virus, sustained a concussion after fainting, the State Department said Saturday.

The 65-year-old Clinton, who’s expected to leave her job soon after serving as America’s top diplomat during President Barack Obama’s first term, is recovering at home after the incident last week and is being monitored by doctors, according to a statement by aide Philippe Reines.

No further details were immediately available.

The statement said Clinton was dehydrated because of the virus and that she fainted and sustained a concussion. She will continue to work from home in the week ahead and looks forward to being back in the office "soon," the statement said.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee said it won’t hear from Clinton as planned at a Thursday morning hearing into the Sept. 11 attack against a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador. She also was scheduled to testify that afternoon before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Clinton’s aides on Saturday informed the Senate committee chairman, Sen. John Kerry, about her health, and the Massachusetts Democrat "insisted that given her condition, she could not and should not appear" as planned, said Kerry spokeswoman Jodi Seth. Senior department officials are expected to testify instead.

Clinton backed out of a trip to North Africa and the Persian Gulf on Monday because she was sick. She caught the virus during a recent visit to Europe.

She’s known for her grueling travel schedule and is the most traveled secretary of state, having visited 112 countries while in the job.