Monday May 27, 2013

Obama visits Oklahoma, consoles tornado victims,
offers federal support

MOORE, Okla. (AP) -- President Barack Obama visited tornado-devastated Moore, Okla., Sunday, consoling people staggered by the loss of life and property and promising that the government will be behind them "every step of the way."

"I’m just a messenger here," the president said, saying "folks are behind you" across America. He offered moral and monetary support in the wake of the monstrous EF5 tornado that killed 24 people, including 10 children, last Monday afternoon.

Standing with Gov. Mary Fallin and other state and federal officials, Obama noted a substantial rebuilding job ahead and said that "our hearts go out to you."

"This is a strong community with strong character. There’s no doubt they will bounce back," he said. "But they need help."

The White House said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has already provided $57 million in rebates and incentives to help build about 12,000 storm shelters in Oklahoma.

2 of last surviving vets of Edson’s Raiders recall unit’s WWII heroics in the Pacific

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (AP) -- Gerald West held the laminated sheet of paper fellow World War II combat veteran Robert Addison pulled from an old briefcase and perused the 300-plus names listed under the words, "Lest We Forget.


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"I knew quite a few of those guys," said West, 93, who made the short drive to Addison’s home 45 miles north of Albany recently to reminisce about their wartime service with the legendary Edson’s Raiders, an elite Marine Corps unit that was the forerunnner of today’s U.S. Special Forces.

The document Addison keeps among his wartime mementos and literature lists the names of members of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion who died while fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific. Addison and West are among the dwindling number of Edson’s Raiders still alive. Out of an original roster of about 900 men, fewer than 150 are believed to survive, according to Bruce Burlingham, historian for U.S. Marine Raider Association.

Dubbed Edson’s Raiders after their colorful, red-haired commander, Col. Merritt "Red Mike" Edson, the unit was the first U.S. ground force to attack Japan-held territory after Pearl Harbor. Landing on Tulagi in the Solomon Islands in August 1942, they beat the larger 1st Marine Division’s arrival on nearby Guadalcanal by an hour.

The 1st and 2nd Raider battalions, formed just days apart in February 1942, were the first commando-style units in the American military, predating the creation of the U.S. Army Rangers by four months. Trained in jungle warfare and hand-to-hand combat, the Raiders’ leatherneck pride paired with a pirate’s attitude was reflected in their distinctive battalion patch: a white death’s head skull in a red diamond, set against a blue background with five white stars representing the Southern Cross constellation.

2 rockets hit Beirut, signaling a backlash against Hezbollah for role in Syria’s civil war

BEIRUT (AP) -- Two rockets hit Hezbollah strongholds in Beirut on Sunday, tearing through an apartment and peppering cars with shrapnel, a day after the Lebanese group’s leader pledged to lift President Bashar Assad to victory in Syria’s civil war.

The strikes illustrated the potential backlash against Hezbollah at home for linking its fate to the survival of the Assad regime. It’s a gambit that also threatens to pull fragile Lebanon deeper into Syria’s bloody conflict.

Despite such risks, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah made it clear there is no turning back. In a televised speech Saturday, he said Hezbollah will keep fighting alongside Assad’s forces until victory, regardless of the costs.

For Hezbollah, it may well be an existential battle. If Assad falls, Hezbollah’s supply line of Iranian weapons through Syrian territory would dry up and it could become increasingly isolated in the region.

At the same time, Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group, is raising the sectarian stakes in Lebanon by declaring war on Syria’s rebels, most of them Sunni Muslims.

Israeli electric car company ending project to cut oil dependency

JERUSALEM (AP) -- It was an audacious idea that came to symbolize Israel’s self-described status as "Start-Up Nation," a company that believed it could replace most gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles and reduce the world’s reliance on oil -- and all within a few years.

But it all came crashing down.

The company, Better Place, started out as a source of pride and a symbol of Israel’s status as a global high-tech power, but it suffered from a local brand of hubris and overreach. On Sunday, it announced plans to liquidate after burning through almost a billion dollars and failing to sell its silent fleet of French-made sedans to a skeptical public.

"This is a very sad day for all of us. We stand by the original vision as formulated by Shai Agassi of creating a green alternative that would lessen our dependence on highly polluting transportation technologies," the company said. "Unfortunately, the path to realizing that vision was difficult, complex and littered with obstacles, not all of which we were able to overcome."

Kenya: UK soldier killing suspect arrested in 2010 near border with Somalia

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- A suspect in last week’s savage killing of a British soldier on a London street was arrested in Kenya in 2010 while apparently preparing to train and fight with al-Qaida-linked Somali militants, an anti-terrorism police official said Sunday.

Michael Adebolajo, who was carrying a British passport, was then handed over to British authorities in the East African country, another Kenyan official said.

The information surfaced as London’s Metropolitan Police said specialist firearms officers arrested a man Sunday suspected of conspiring to murder 25-year-old British soldier Lee Rigby. Police gave few details about the suspect, only saying he is 22 years old.

The arrest brought to nine the number of suspects who have been taken into custody regarding Rigby’s horrific killing in London. Two have been released without charge, and one was released on bail pending further questioning. No one has been charged in the case.

The British soldier, who had served in Afghanistan, was run over, then stabbed with knives in the Woolwich area in southeast London on Wednesday afternoon as he was walking near his barracks. 2 temporary steel bridges to span across Skagit River after I-5 collapse

SEATTLE (AP) -- Plans are underway to construct a pair of temporary steel bridges across the Skagit River in northern Washington state where a highway span collapsed into the water this past week.

The Associated Press has learned from an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement that the bridges will go up next to the original span and will allow limited travel over Interstate 5.

Planners hope to have the temporary structures in place within three weeks. Repair work would then begin on the damaged bridge, with a goal of finishing that work by fall.

The federal government is expected to cover 90 percent of the cost of the temporary bridge and the replacement.

On Thursday, a semi-truck carrying an oversize load clipped a steel truss, starting the collapse of the span and sending cars and people into the cold river waters, authorities said. The three people in the cars survived with non-life threatening injuries.

N.J. Gov. wants to
talk to Rutgers about AD Hermann in the wake abuse report

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie plans to speak with Rutgers officials about a report that the athletic director hired to clean up the school’s scandal-scarred program quit as Tennessee’s women’s volleyball coach 16 years ago after her players complained she ruled through humiliation, fear and emotional abuse.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak says the governor is aware of the report about Julie Hermann in The Star-Ledger of Newark, but wants to get more details before commenting.

"He’s not going to make any judgments at this time," Drewniak said in an email to The Associated Press on Sunday.

The Star-Ledger reported that Tennessee players wrote the mentality cruelty they suffered when Hermann was coach was unbearable, adding she called them "whores, alcoholics and learning disabled."

Hermann was hired May15 to replace the ousted Tim Pernetti, who was let go after basketball coach Mike Rice was fired for abusive behavior.

Passengers on Angel Flight that crashed ID’d as cancer patient, wife; pilot from Conn.

EPHRATAH, N.Y. (AP) -- Family members say the volunteer medical flight that crashed in central New York was transporting a 64-year-old cancer patient and his wife and was piloted by a Connecticut man.

The daughter of 58-year-old Evelyn Amerosa said Sunday her mother was on the Angel Flight that crashed Friday with her husband, Frank.

Heather Theobald says her mother directed activities at a nursing home and her stepfather used to be a trucker. She says Frank Amerosa had received treatment in Boston shortly before the crash in Ephratah, a small town about an hour west of Albany.

The daughter of John Campbell of Stamford, Conn., tells The Associated Press her father was the pilot.

The bodies of Campbell and Evelyn Amerosa have been recovered. Searchers were still searching Sunday for Frank Amerosa.

Lesbian romance ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ wins Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival

CANNES, France (AP) -- The tender, sensual lesbian romance "Blue is the Warmest Color: The Life of Adele" won the hearts of the 66th Cannes Film Festival, taking its top honor, the Palme d’Or.

The jury, headed by Steven Spielberg, took the unusual move of awarding the Palme not just to Tunisian-born director Abdellatif Kechiche, but also to the film’s two stars: Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux. The three clutched each other as they accepted the award, one of cinema’s greatest honors.

"The film had a beautiful French youth that I discovered during the long time filming the movie," said Kechiche at the festival closing ceremony Sunday. "It taught me a lot about the spirit of freedom."

Exarchopoulos stars in the French film as a 15-year-old girl whose life is changed when she falls in love with an older woman, played by Seydoux. The three-hour film caught headlines for its lengthy, graphic sex scenes, but bewitched festival goers with its heartbreaking coming of age story.

"Life of Adele," which premiered at Cannes just days after France legalized gay marriage, was hailed as a landmark film for its intimate portrait of a same-sex relationship.