Wednesday June 12, 2013

Obama: ‘moment is now’ for immigration legislation as Senate begins work on bill

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In Spanish and English, the Senate pushed contentious immigration legislation over early procedural hurdles with deceptive ease on Tuesday as President Barack Obama insisted the "moment is now" to give 11 million immigrants in the United States illegally a chance at citizenship.

Despite the lopsided votes, Republicans served notice they will seek to toughen the bill’s border security provisions and impose tougher terms on those seeking to gain legal status. "This bill has serious flaws," said their party leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, one of several who noted pointedly that the 60-vote majority they will demand for passage is hardly assured.

Even before the first proposed changes were considered, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a potential 2016 Republican presidential contender, outlined the complicated state of play for a measure that he helped draft as a member of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" and now seeks to alter. With changes to tighten control of the U.S.-Mexican border, he said, about half of the Senate’s 46 Republicans are prepared to vote to create the pathway to citizenship that is backed by most or all of the 55 lawmakers aligned with the Democratic majority.

At the White House, Obama said repeatedly the current immigration system is broken, for the foreign-born who live in the United State legally and illegally alike.

Referring to the 11 million currently in the country unlawfully, he said, "Yes, they broke the rules; they didn’t wait their turn. They shouldn’t be let off easy. They shouldn’t be allowed to game the system. But at the same time, the vast majority of these individuals aren’t looking for any trouble. They’re just looking to provide for their families, contribute to their communities. ‘’

Turkey’s protesters, PM refuse to back down in showdown over Taksim Square

ISTANBUL (AP) -- Protesters and Turkey’s prime minister both refused to back down Tuesday in what could become the final battle for Istanbul’s Taksim Square, the symbol of nationwide grievances against his government.

Tens of thousands of protesters returned to the square in the evening, in a show of defiance met with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons, hours after riot police had forced their way past improvised barricades to clear the square of protesters occupying the area for the past 12 days.

Hundreds more vowed to continue their sit-in at Taksim’s adjacent Gezi Park, despite an order from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for them to leave -- an order bolstered by the police show of force.

A peaceful demonstration against the park’s redevelopment that began more than two weeks ago has morphed into the biggest test of Erdogan’s authority in his decade of power.

The unrest has spread to 78 cities across the country, with protesters championing their objections to what they say is the prime minister’s increasingly authoritarian style and his perceived attempts to impose a religious and conservative lifestyle in a country with secular laws -- charges he rejects.

Bill would make sweeping changes to address rising sexual assaults in military

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ambitious legislation to stanch the growing number of sexual assaults in the armed forces by overhauling the military justice system faces an uncertain future due to vigorous objections from senior Defense Department leaders and key members of Congress who are concerned the proposed changes go too far.

The bill crafted by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., cleared an important hurdle Tuesday when the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee that she chairs approved the measure. But the legislation must get through the full committee and its chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., has signaled his intent to offer an alternative that would mute the most aggressive reforms in Gillibrand’s bill.

Gillibrand’s legislation would remove commanders from the process of deciding whether serious crimes, including sexual misconduct cases, go to trial. That judgment would rest instead with seasoned trial lawyers who have prosecutorial experience and hold the rank of colonel or above. Her bill would take away a commander’s authority to convene a court-martial. That responsibility would be given to new and separate offices outside the victim’s chain of command.

But Levin and other lawmakers, echoing fears voiced by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believe that cutting commanders out of the legal process would undermine their ability to enforce good order and discipline within the ranks.

"Commanders ought to have and use the tools that are the most effective in terms of changing climate and affecting the behavior of people in their units, and that’s to have available to them the power to send to a court-martial," Levin said Monday.

Manual left behind in Mali suggests al-Qaida training to use feared surface-to-air missile

TIMBUKTU, Mali (AP) -- The photocopies of the manual lay in heaps on the floor, in stacks that scaled one wall, like Xeroxed, stapled handouts for a class.

Except that the students in this case were al-Qaida fighters in Mali. And the manual was a detailed guide, with diagrams and photographs, on how to use a weapon that particularly concerns the United States: A surface-to-air missile capable of taking down a commercial airplane.

The 26-page document in Arabic, recovered by The Associated Press in a building that had been occupied by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Timbuktu, strongly suggests the group now possesses the SA-7 surface-to-air missile, known to the Pentagon as the Grail, according to terrorism specialists. And it confirms that the al-Qaida cell is actively training its fighters to use these weapons, also called man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS, which likely came from the arms depots of ex-Libyan strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

Santa Monica gunman who killed 5 had bomb-making material as juvenile in 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Police found bomb-making materials seven years ago in the home of the gunman who killed five people last week in Santa Monica, a school board official said on Tuesday.

Police discovered the materials after John Zawahri threatened fellow high school students in 2006, Oscar de la Torre, a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified school board, told The Associated Press.

The board was briefed by school administrators after police found Zawahri was learning to make explosives by downloading instructions from YouTube, de la Torre said.

"It was some type of devices or materials that would be able to make explosives, and the word ‘pipe bombs’ was what was referred to," he said. "If it was guns and stuff like that it would have been more serious, but because it was explosives, it wasn’t deemed ‘Oh my God,’ just that this guy had a fascination."

Zawahri wasn’t expelled, de la Torre said, but he never finished classes at Olympic High, a continuation school for students who have academic or disciplinary issues.

Morning-after pill appears headed to drugstore shelves, but which one and how soon?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Don’t look for the morning-after pill to move next to the condoms on drugstore shelves right away -- but after a decade-plus fight, it appears it really will happen. Backed into a corner by a series of court rulings, the Obama administration has agreed to let the Plan B One-Step brand of emergency contraception sell over the counter to anyone of any age.

There still are a lot of details to be worked out, including whether a federal judge agrees that the government has gone far enough or whether cheaper generics can be sold without restrictions too.

But the move does mark a major societal shift in the long battle over women’s reproductive rights, and influential doctors’ groups welcomed the step Tuesday.

"Allowing unrestricted access to emergency contraception products is a historic step forward in protecting the health of our patients who are sexually active," said Dr. Thomas McInerny, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "The science has always been clear: Emergency contraception is a safe, effective tool to prevent unintended pregnancy in adolescents of any reproductive age."

On the other side, social conservatives argue that the drug’s availability undermines parental supervision, and accuse the administration of politicking.

Dispatch call describes Paris Jackson’s injuries after taking pills, cut with kitchen knife

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Paramedics were dispatched to Paris Jackson’s home on a report that the 15-year-old had taken 20 Motrin pills and cut herself with a kitchen knife, audio of an emergency dispatch released Tuesday shows.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department released audio of a call describing the need for paramedics between one of its dispatchers and a sheriff’s department dispatcher who was relaying information from the home.

Paris is the only daughter of pop superstar Michael Jackson and was hospitalized after the June 5 incident.

The teen was described as conscious and breathing during the call, but no other details about her condition or what led to the injuries were given on the call, which lasted approximately a minute.

Perry Sanders Jr., a lawyer for her grandmother and guardian, has said Paris is physically fine and receiving appropriate medical treatment. He did not return a phone message seeking comment Tuesday.