Saturday January 26, 2013

Egypt’s official news agency says death toll in clashes in Suez Canal city has risen to 4

CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt’s official news agency says the death toll has risen to four in clashes in the city of Suez between police and protesters on the second anniversary of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

The agency quoted the head of the emergency ward at the Suez Canal’s city’s main hospital as saying five other people were being treated for gunshot wounds from Friday’s clashes, raising the possibility of more fatalities.

Suez on Friday saw some of the worst clashes between police and protesters, who set ablaze a government building that once housed the city’s local government.

The protests have been called by the liberal and secular opposition to denounce Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who took office in June as the country’s first freely elected civilian president.

Too many gun laws around U.S. makes it hard to enforce tougher state and local laws

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Military-style assault weapons, gangster-style Tommy guns, World War II-era bazookas and even sawed-off shotguns -- somewhere in the U.S., there is a legal avenue to get each of those firearms and more.

This is thanks to the maze of gun statutes around the country and the lack of a minimum federal standard to raise the bar for gun control in states with weak laws.

An Associated Press analysis found that there are thousands of laws, rules and regulations at the local, county, state and federal levels. The laws and rules vary by state, and even within states, according to a 2011 compilation of state gun laws by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

These laws and regulations govern who can carry a firearm, what kind of firearm is legal, the size of ammunition magazines and more. In some places, a person can buy as many guns as desired.

This maze of laws undermines gun-control efforts in communities with tougher gun laws -- and pushes advocates of tighter controls to seek a federal standard. Gun rights proponents say enforcing all existing laws makes more sense than passing new ones.

Iraqi troops kill 5 protesters, marking first deaths at opposition rallies

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraqi troops opened fire on stone-throwing Sunni demonstrators in the country’s restive west on Friday, leading to the deaths of at least five protesters -- the first fatalities in more than a month of anti-government rallies. Two soldiers were also killed, apparently in retaliation.

The violence is likely to exacerbate tensions between the Shiite-led government and minority Sunnis angry over perceived second-class treatment and what they see as unfair policies targeting their sect.

Hours after the shooting, police said gunmen attacked an army checkpoint, killing the soldiers, in apparent payback for the earlier bloodshed. At least one army vehicle was set ablaze, and dozens of civilian gunmen were seen roaming the streets before local authorities imposed a curfew in the city.

Friday’s protest was part of a wave of rallies that first erupted in Anbar province last month after the arrest of bodyguards assigned to Sunni Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi, who comes from the area. Anbar is a former al-Qaida stronghold that saw some of the fiercest fighting against U.S. forces during the war.

The protesters are demanding the release of detainees and the cancellation of a tough counterterrorism law and other policies they believe overwhelmingly target Sunnis. Many link their cause with the broader Arab Spring and are calling for the downfall of the government altogether.

Syrian forces escalate offensive in key province; UN says Jordan seeing record refugee numbers

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syria’s army unleashed a barrage of rocket and artillery fire on rebel-held areas in a central province Friday as part of a widening offensive against fighters seeking to oust President Bashar Assad. At least 140 people were killed in fighting nationwide, according to activist groups.

The United Nations said a record number of Syrians streamed into Jordan this month, doubling the population of the kingdom’s already-cramped refugee camp to 65,000. Over 30,000 people arrived in Zaatari in January -- 6,000 in the past two days alone, the U.N. said.

The newcomers are mostly families, women, children and elderly who fled from southern Syria, said Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She said the UNHCR was working with the Jordanian government to open a second major camp nearby by the end of this month.

Many of the new arrivals at Zaatari are from the southern town of Daraa, where the uprising against Assad first erupted nearly two years ago, the Britain-based Save the Children said Friday.

Five buses, crammed with "frightened and exhausted people who fled with what little they could carry," pull up every hour at the camp, said Saba al-Mobasat, an aid worker with Save the Children.

India: 35-year term not enough for American involved in Mumbai terror attack

NEW DELHI (AP) -- India expressed disappointment Friday with the 35-year sentence given to an American who admitted his role in the 2008 Mumbai attack, saying he deserved more prison time for the terrorism that killed 166 people in the country’s financial capital.

David Headley was sentenced Thursday in a U.S. federal court in Chicago. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said he would have possibly received a "more serious and severe" sentence had he been tried in India.

"The 35-year sentence is a beginning. We will continue our efforts to ensure that he is extradited and brought to India for trial," Khurshid told reporters.

Headley, 52, was born in the U.S. to a Pakistani father and an American mother and changed his birth name from Daood Gilani. He admitted that he helped plan the attack and videotaped targets that were later attacked.

In the three-day rampage, 10 gunmen from a Pakistani-based militant group fanned out across Mumbai, attacking a crowded train station, a landmark hotel and a Jewish center, among other targets.

Headley was arrested in the U.S. in 2009 and entered into a plea bargain with U.S. investigators under which he provided information about terror networks.

The U.S. State Department on Friday defended the handling of the case, saying that from Washington’s perspective, it was a "very positive example" of U.S.-Indian counterterrorism collaboration.

The department ruled out Headley’s extradition.

"He’s been tried, convicted, and will serve in the United States," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Appeals court: Obama recess appointments to labor board are unconstitutional

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a setback for President Barack Obama, a federal appeals court ruled Friday that he violated the Constitution in making recess appointments last year, a decision that could severely curtail the president’s ability to bypass the Senate to fill administration vacancies.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said Obama did not have the power to make three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board because the Senate was officially in session -- and not in recess -- at the time. If the decision stands, it could invalidate hundreds of board decisions made over the past year.

The court also ruled that the president could only make recess appointments if the openings arise when the Senate is in an official recess, which it defined as the once-a-year break between sessions of Congress.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the administration strongly disagrees with the decision and that the NLRB would continue to conduct business as usual, despite calls by some Republicans for the board members to resign.

"The decision is novel and unprecedented," Carney said. "It contradicts 150 years of practice by Democratic and Republican administrations."

Dolphin makes a splash in polluted NYC canal, police ponder rescue attempt

NEW YORK (AP) -- A wayward dolphin has been making a splash in a polluted New York City canal.

Friday’s deep-freeze weather didn’t seem to faze the dolphin as it swam around in the Gowanus (guh-WAH’-nuhs) Canal, which runs 1.5 miles through a narrow industrial zone near some of Brooklyn’s wealthiest neighborhoods.

Bundled-up onlookers took cellphone photos. A news helicopter hovered overhead.

The dolphin appears to be about 7 feet long. It has surfaced periodically and shaken black gunk from its snout in the polluted water.

The New York Police Department says animal experts are waiting to see if the dolphin leaves the canal on its own during the evening’s high tide. If not, they plan to lend a hand Saturday.

FDA won’t regulate Pennsylvania birth control machine

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. (AP) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration won’t take any regulatory action over a vending machine at a Pennsylvania college that dispenses the morning-after pill.

FDA spokeswoman Erica Jefferson said Friday that officials looked at publicly available information about the Shippensburg University vending program, spoke with university and campus health officials, and decided no action was necessary.

The pill is available for $25 at a health center vending machine that’s accessible to students and university employees. That raised questions about how accessible emergency contraception should be.

The vending machine at the school of about 8,300 students provides the Plan B One Step emergency contraceptive along with condoms, decongestants and pregnancy tests. Administrators said the idea for the machine came from a student survey and was endorsed by the student government.

3rd-grader takes loaded gun to
Detroit-area school

INKSTER, Mich. (AP) -- Authorities say a third-grade student brought a loaded handgun to his Detroit-area school, but was stopped before he walked through the doors.

School district spokeswoman Val Hughes says the principal at Daly Elementary School in Inkster was tipped by a phone call before school started on Friday morning.

She says the principal met the boy at the school’s entrance. The boy and weapon were removed from school grounds around 9 a.m.

Hughes says no one was harmed and that other students weren’t aware of what happened.

No details were released about how the boy got the gun or why he took it to school.

Inkster police told The Associated Press that they couldn’t release any information about the incident.

Inkster is about 15 miles west of Detroit.

U.S. exasperated
by Iran delaying
nuclear talks

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration says it is exasperated with Iran for holding up new talks with world powers over its disputed nuclear program.

Negotiations had been envisioned for next week. But State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says the U.S. and its partners have been "surprised that the Iranians keep coming back again and again with new preconditions, new dates and venues."

She says consultations with Iran continue on finding a city and date for a meeting.

The U.S.complaint echoes that of the European Union, which suggested earlier this week that Iran was willfully delaying the talks.

The U.S. and many other countries fear the Islamic republic may be trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says its program is for peaceful purposes.