Thursday January 3, 2013

Rep. King says Speaker Boehner promises votes on Superstorm Sandy aid.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A New York lawmaker says House Speaker John Boehner has promised votes to aid victims of Superstorm Sandy by Jan. 15.

Republican Rep. Peter King says the speaker will schedule a vote Friday for $9 billion in flood insurance and another on Jan. 15 for a remaining $51 billion in the package. The votes will be taken by the new Congress that will be sworn in Thursday.

Boehner’s decision to cancel an expected vote Tuesday night had outraged lawmakers from New York, New Jersey and elsewhere, including many in his own party.

King said Boehner made the promise in a private meeting with lawmakers from affected states. King and others said they were now satisfied that the aid will be forthcoming.

UN says more than 60,000 dead in Syrian civil war as rebels, government continue attacks

BEIRUT (AP) -- The United Nations gave a grim new count Wednesday of the human cost of Syria’s civil war, saying the death toll has exceeded 60,000 in 21 months -- far higher than recent estimates by anti-regime activists.

The day’s events illustrated the escalating violence that has made recent months the deadliest of the conflict: As rebels pressed a strategy of attacking airports and pushing the fight closer to President Bashar Assad’s stronghold in Damascus, the government responded with deadly airstrikes on restive areas around the capital.

A missile from a fighter jet hit a gas station in the suburb of Mleiha, killing or wounding dozens of people who were trapped in burning piles of debris, activists said.

Gruesome online video showed incinerated victims -- one still sitting astride a motorcycle -- or bodies torn apart.

"He’s burning! The guy is burning!" an off-camera voice screamed in one video over a flaming corpse.

Hillary Clinton speaking
to staff, reviewing papers
as she recovers from
blood clot in head

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been speaking with staff and reviewing paperwork from the New York hospital where she is recovering from a blood clot in her head, the State Department said Wednesday.

Doctors continue to monitor Clinton’s progress and her response to blood thinners intended to dissolve the clot. Aides said there was no update Wednesday on her condition, but emphasized that the secretary remained engaged with staff in Washington who are handling U.S. foreign policy in her absence.

"She’s been quite active on the phone with all of us," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Clinton was admitted Sunday to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for treatment of a clot stemming from a concussion she suffered earlier in December. While at home battling a stomach virus, Clinton had fainted, fallen and struck her head, a spokesman said. Clinton, 65, hasn’t been seen publicly since Dec. 7.

Doctors found the clot, located in a vein that runs through the space between the brain and the skull behind the right ear, during a follow-up exam and began administering blood thinners. Her physicians said Monday that there was no neurological damage and that they expect she will make a full recovery.

Egypt panel on protest deaths adds pressure for new trial of Mubarak, and military officials

CAIRO (AP) -- An Egyptian fact-finding mission determined that Hosni Mubarak watched the uprising against him unfold through a live TV feed at his palace, despite his later denial that he knew the extent of the protests and crackdown against them, a member of the mission said Wednesday.

The mission’s findings increase pressure for a retrial of the 84-year old ousted president, who is already serving a life sentence for the deaths of 900 protesters. But its report could hold both political gains and dangers for his successor, Mohammed Morsi. A new prosecution of Mubarak would be popular, since many Egyptians were angered that he was convicted only for failing to stop the killing of protesters, rather than for ordering the crackdown.

But the report also implicates the military and security officials in protester deaths. Any move to prosecute them could spark a backlash from powerful generals and others who still hold positions under Morsi’s government.

Rights activists said they would watch carefully how aggressively Morsi pursues the evidence, detailed by a fact-finding mission he commissioned.

"This report should be part of the democratic transformation of Egypt and restructuring of security agencies," Ahmed Ragheb, a member of the commission and a rights lawyer, told The Associated Press. "At the end of the day, there will be no national reconciliation without revealing the truth, and ensuring accountability."

Relatives of 9 killed in Colorado movie theater reject ‘disgusting’
invitation to reopening

DENVER (AP) -- Relatives of the majority of people killed in a Colorado movie theater rejected an invitation on Wednesday to attend its reopening this month, calling it a "disgusting offer" that came at a terrible time -- right after the first Christmas without their loved ones.

The parents, grandparents, cousins and widow of nine of the 12 people killed said they were asked to attend an "evening of remembrance" followed by a movie when the Aurora theater reopens on Jan. 17. They released a letter sent to the theater’s owner, Cinemark, in which they criticized the Plano, Texas-based company for not previously reaching out to them to offer condolences and refusing to meet with them without lawyers.

"Our family members will never be on this earth with us again and a movie ticket and some token words from people who didn’t care enough to reach out to us, nor respond when we reached out to them to talk, is appalling," the letter said.

Cinemark had no immediate comment.

The company announced last month that it would reopen the theater on Jan. 17 and invite people affected by the attack and other guests, a move that Aurora officials said has strong support in the community. Gov. John Hickenlooper plans to attend.

Tennessee Waltz’ singer Patti Page who transcended genre to rule the ‘50s dies

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Unforgettable songs like "Tennessee Waltz" and "(How Much Is That) Doggie in the Window" made Patti Page the best-selling female singer of the 1950s and a star who would spend much of the rest of her life traveling the world.

When unspecified health problems finally stopped her decades of touring, though, Page wrote a sad-but-resolute letter to her fans late last year about the change.

"Although I feel I still have the voice God gave me, physical impairments are preventing me from using that voice as I had for so many years," Page wrote. "It is only He who knows what the future holds."

Page died on New Year’s Day in Encinitas, Calif., according to publicist Schatzi Hageman, ending one of pop music’s most diverse careers. She was 85 and just five weeks away from being honored at the Grammy Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy.

Page achieved several career milestones in American pop culture, but she’ll be remembered for indelible hits that crossed the artificial categorizations of music and remained atop the charts for months to reach a truly national audience.