Thursday July 4, 2013

Boston ramps up security for
July Fourth concert, revelers
are resolute despite bombings

BOSTON (AP) -- For many New Englanders, the Fourth of July means the Boston Pops performing the "1812 Overture" on the Charles River Esplanade and fireworks booming overhead.

This year, it’s also the city’s first large public gathering since the Boston Marathon bombings -- an attack that authorities have said the suspects first considered staging on Independence Day.

But as law enforcement officials put a ramped-up security plan in place Wednesday, many people in Boston said they wouldn’t give in to fear of terrorism by changing their plans or staying away from public celebrations.

Catherine Lawrie, a 54-year-old Massachusetts Senate employee, walked down near the Esplanade to hear some of the performers rehearse Wednesday.

She was disappointed a footbridge to the river was blocked because of increased security, but said Boston looked ready to host a big party without any worries about safety.

Delay of employer requirement stirs concern about broader launch of Obama health care overhaul

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The sudden delay of a major part of President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul is raising questions about other potential problems lurking in the homestretch.

The requirement that many employers provide coverage is just one part of a complex law.


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But its one-year postponement has taken administration allies and adversaries alike by surprise.

White House officials said Wednesday that the delay was firm and won’t be extended after a year -- and that the overhaul will still be fully implemented by the time Obama leaves office. But the officials, who were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations on the record and spoke only on condition of anonymity, wouldn’t rule out delays or tweaks to other provisions.

The White House action means that some companies that would have offered health insurance next year to avoid fines will not do so now. They’re mainly firms with many low-wage workers, such as restaurants, hotels and temporary staffing companies. The workers, however, will still be able to get coverage. Many may qualify for subsidized insurance through new marketplaces to debut Oct. 1, less than three months away.

The fact that new problems are popping up at this late stage could be a sign of additional troublesome issues ahead. It underscores a recent warning by the Government Accountability Office that the "timely and smooth" rollout of the new insurance markets can’t be guaranteed, partly because much of the technology to run them hasn’t been fully tested.

Collection of 90K war letters reveal voices of soldiers from American Revolution to Iraq

ORANGE, Calif. (AP) -- U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Horace Evers was setting up a command post in Munich with other Allied soldiers in the final days of World War II when he stumbled across sheets of Adolf Hitler’s personal stationery in the dictator’s abandoned apartment.

Evers, just barely 26, crossed out Hitler’s name below an embossed swastika, scrawled his own name -- "S/Sgt. Evers" -- and then sat down to write home about the stacks of hollow-eyed corpses he had seen the day before at Dachau.

"The first box car I came to had about 30 what were once humans in it. All were just bone with a layer of skin over them. Most of the eyes were open and had an indescribable look about them," he wrote in the May 2, 1945 letter.

"How can people do things like that? I never believed they could until now."

The pages, now browned and creased, are part of a stunning collection of 90,000 wartime letters stretching from the Revolutionary War to modern-day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan that will be housed in a new Center for American War Letters opening this fall at Chapman University in Southern California.

Gasoline dips below $3.50 ahead of July Fourth holiday; Midwest drivers enjoying a plunge

NEW YORK (AP) -- Gasoline prices are on a summer slide, giving U.S. drivers a break as they set out for the beach and other vacation spots for the Fourth of July.

The national average for a gallon has fallen for 21 days straight and is now below $3.50 for the first time since February. The reason: Oil prices have been relatively stable, and refineries are turning out more gasoline after completing springtime maintenance.

The drop may be interrupted temporarily because oil prices spiked Wednesday on fears that the turmoil in Egypt would disrupt the flow of crude in the Mideast. Analysts, however, don’t expect a sharp increase at the pump, because global oil supplies are ample and U.S. refineries are producing plenty of gas.

The national average price of a gallon is $3.48, according to AAA, OPIS and Wright Express. That is 16 cents below its post-Memorial Day high of $3.64 on June 10.

For much of the nation, the slide has been gradual. But for some drivers, especially in the Midwest, it has been a roller-coaster ride. Prices shot up there early last month because of refinery maintenance work and a fire, then plunged after the refineries ramped back up.

Bolivia plane incident infuriates Latin America but little indication region will host Snowden

The European rerouting of the Bolivian presidential plane over suspicions that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden was aboard ignited outrage Wednesday among Latin American leaders who called it a stunning violation of national sovereignty and disrespect for the region.

But as President Evo Morales headed home after an unplanned 14-hour layover in Vienna, there was no immediate sign that Latin America anger would translate into a rush to bring Snowden to the region that had been seen as likeliest to defy the U.S. and give him asylum.

Snowden was still believed to be the transit area of Moscow’s international airport. As his case grinds on, it appears to illustrate the strength of U.S. influence, despite the initial sense that the Obama administration lost control of the situation when China allowed Snowden to flee Hong Kong.

Morales originally planned to fly home from a Moscow summit via Western Europe, stopping in Lisbon, Portugal and Guyana to refuel. His plane was diverted to Vienna Tuesday night after his government said France, Spain and Portugal all refused to let it through their airspace because they suspected Snowden was on board. Spain’s ambassador to Austria even tried to make his way onto the plane on the pretext of having a coffee to check Snowden wasn’t on board, Morales said.

Morales had sparked speculation that he might try to help Snowden get out during a visit to Russia after he said that his country would be willing to consider granting him asylum. Austrian officials said Morales’ plane was searched early Wednesday by Austrian border police after Morales gave permission. Bolivian and Austrian officials both said Snowden was not on board.

Expert testifies no Martin DNA
on gun grip in Zimmerman trial

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- Trayvon Martin’s DNA was not found on the grip of George Zimmerman’s gun, and Zimmerman’s DNA was not found under the unarmed teen’s fingernails, a law enforcement expert said Wednesday in testimony that prosecutors hope will refute the neighborhood watch volunteer’s self-defense claim.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and says he shot the 17-year-old in the chest to protect himself as Martin reached for his firearm during a fight.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement DNA expert Anthony Gorgone also testified that Zimmerman’s DNA was found among blood on a shirt Martin was wearing under his hooded sweatshirt.

While cross-examining Gorgone, defense attorney Don West focused on the packaging of the DNA samples, suggesting they could have led to the samples being degraded. Gorgone told him that Martin’s two sweatshirts had been packaged in plastic while wet, instead of a paper bag where they can dry out, and when he opened the samples they smelled of ammonia and mold.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement analyst Amy Siewert also testified that tearing and residue on Martin’s clothing showed the gun was directly against him when it fired.

Playing dead: At Civil War
re-enactments, deciding who
’dies’ can be a heavy responsibility

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) -- You’re a Civil War re-enactor carrying an authentic musket, out on the field with your history-buff buddies making a charge under withering enemy fire. It’s great fun except for one thing:

Someone’s going to have to "die."

And lying motionless in the grass on a sultry July day in a historically accurate wool uniform while others are performing heroic deeds all around you does not always make for an exciting afternoon.

That’s why deciding who lives and who dies -- and when they must fall -- is one of the heaviest responsibilities a pretend commander at a Civil War re-enactment is likely to face.

"That is the age-old re-enacting question, and that is a tough one," said Bob Minton, commander of the Union re-enactor forces last weekend at Gettysburg, the small town where the pivotal battle between North and South was waged on July 1-3, 1863.

Prescott draws on cowboy
spirit to balance loss, celebration in week of grief and patriotism

PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) -- The notoriously rambunctious annual rodeo contest in Prescott added a solemn new ritual this week: a cowboy leading a riderless horse around the outdoor arena, a fire helmet sitting on its saddle, fire boots resting in the stirrups.

Spectators in this Old West town of 40,000 placed straw hats over hearts and cried quietly during the tribute to the 19 firefighters who were killed over the weekend, then went on to drink, laugh and cheer as heartily as the miners and ranchers who patronized the arena in the 1800s.

Emotional whiplash has become a matter of course here as residents try to move on and enjoy the biggest tourism week of the year, while also mourning the men who were the town’s pride.

The famous saloons on Whiskey Row continue to hum, the Fourth of July fireworks show is going on as usual, and attendance is holding steady at the weeklong "World’s Oldest Rodeo" event, even as memorials proliferate on Prescott’s elm-lined streets and relatives fly in for funerals.

"It’s not going to do anyone any good just sitting in the house. I think it’s more important to spend time with people than anything else," said financial planner Andrew Secundy, who cut loose at the rodeo on Monday night and mourned at a twilight vigil on Tuesday.