Friday July 5, 2013

Statue of Liberty reopens as Americans celebrate July 4th with parades, fireworks

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Statue of Liberty reopened on the Fourth of July, eight months after Superstorm Sandy shuttered the national symbol of freedom, as Americans around the country celebrated with fireworks and parades and President Obama urged citizens to live up to the words of the Declaration of Independence.

Hundreds lined up Thursday to be among the first to board boats destined for Lady Liberty, including New Yorker Heather Leykam and her family.

"This, to us, Liberty Island, is really about a rebirth," said Leykam, whose mother’s home was destroyed during the storm. "It is a sense of renewal for the city and the country. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world."

Nationwide, Boston prepared to host its first large gathering since the marathon bombing that killed three and injured hundreds, and Philadelphia, Washington and New Orleans geared up for large holiday concerts. A Civil War reenactment commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg drew as many as 40,000 people to Pennsylvania. In Arizona, sober tributes were planned for 19 firefighters who died this week battling a blaze near Yarnell.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, speaking at the reopening of the Statue of Liberty, choked up as she told the crowd she was wearing a purple ribbon in memory of the fallen firefighters.

Muslim Brotherhood leader arrested as part of military crackdown on Islamists in Egypt

CAIRO (AP) -- A senior judge was sworn in as Egypt’s interim president Thursday to replace ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi as the military launched a major crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood. Reeling from what it called a military coup against democracy, the group said it would not work with the new political system.

The sweep against the Brotherhood leadership included the group’s top leader, General Guide Mohammed Badie. He was arrested late Wednesday from a villa where he had been staying at a Mediterranean coastal city and flown by helicopter to Cairo, security officials said.

The move against the Brotherhood raises deep questions over how Islamists will fit into Egypt’s new political system after the military on Wednesday swept out Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president. The military is installing a new civilian leadership to pave the way to new elections, saying it will stay out of politics.

The army says it did so in the name of millions of Egyptians who had taken to streets demanding he be removed. In the eyes of protesters, Morsi and the Brotherhood from which he hails had warped the democratic process. Many of them say the group has proven its anti-democratic nature and argue that its leaders committed prosecutable crimes.

But the Brotherhood remains a powerful force, with a highly organized membership nationwide.

Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities shut down four Islamist TV stations, banned the Muslim Brotherhood’s newspaper and raided the office of Al-Jazeera’s Egypt affiliate in crackdown on media considered sympathetic to Morsi.

Rights groups said the moves appeared to be an attempt to intimidate pro-Morsi media and shut off their viewpoints.

Among the shuttered stations was the Misr25 channel, run by the Brotherhood. It went off the air Wednesday night just as it was airing pro-Morsi protesters chanting "Down with military rule" after Egypt’s military chief announced that Morsi had been removed.

In a statement, the Brotherhood said the shutdowns were a return to the "repressive" policies of Egypt’s "dark ... ages."

Supreme Court says Congress can rewrite Voting Rights Act, but GOP path isn’t clear

ATLANTA (AP) -- When the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights act last week, it handed Republicans tough questions with no easy answers over how, and where, to attract voters even GOP leaders say the party needs to stay nationally competitive.

The decision caught Republicans between newfound state autonomy that conservatives covet and the law’s popularity among minority, young and poor voters who tend to align with Democrats. It’s those voters that Republicans are eyeing to expand and invigorate the GOP’s core of older, white Americans.

National GOP Chairman Reince Priebus began that effort well before the court’s decision by promising, among other initiatives, to hire non-white party activists to engage directly with black and Latino voters. Yet state and national Republicans reacted to the Voting Rights Act decision with a flurry of activity and comments that may not fit neatly into the national party’s vision.

Congressional leaders must decide whether to try to rewrite the provision the court struck, but it’s not clear how such an effort would fare in the Democratic-led Senate and the GOP-controlled House. And at the state level, elected Republicans are enacting tighter voting restrictions that Democrats blast as harmful to their traditional base of supporters and groups the Republicans say they want to attract.

States like North Carolina and Virginia provide apt examples of the potential fallout. An influx of non-whites have turned those Republican strongholds into battlegrounds in the last two presidential elections, and minority voters helped President Barack Obama win both states in 2008 and Virginia again in 2012.

Bolivia’s Morales says plane dispute was used by the U.S. to intimidate other leaders

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) -- Bolivian President Evo Morales said Thursday that the rerouting of his plane over suspicions that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden was on board was a plot by the U.S. to intimidate him and other Latin American leaders.

Morales, long a fierce critic of U.S. policy toward Latin America, received a hero’s welcome from a cheering crowd in La Paz airport late Wednesday night.

His return followed a dramatic, unplanned 14-hour layover in Vienna that ignited an international diplomatic row. Bolivia’s government said France, Spain and Portugal refused to let the president’s plane through their airspace, forcing it to land in Austria. He was flying home from a summit in Russia.

Latin American leaders were outraged by the incident, calling it a violation of national sovereignty and a slap in the face for a region that has suffered through humiliations by Europe and several U.S.-backed military coups.

Morales said the incident involving his plane was a provocation to the region, and he urged European nations to "free themselves" from the U.S. "The United States is using its agent (Snowden) and the president (of Bolivia) to intimidate the whole region," he said.

British police seek 38 ‘persons of interest’ in case of missing girl Madeleine McCann

LONDON (AP) -- British police say they have launched a full investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, and want to trace 38 "persons of interest" in the case.

Detectives say it’s possible that Madeleine, who vanished from a Portuguese holiday resort six years ago, is still alive.

Scotland Yard said Thursday that 12 of the individuals of interest are British, and the rest from a variety of European countries. The force says it is working with governments across the continent to find out more.

McCann vanished from a vacation home in Portugal’s Algarve region on May 3, 2007, days before her fourth birthday. The case has generated intense media interest.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood said police "continue to believe that there is a possibility that Madeleine is alive."

Paula Deen ends business relationship with agent after racial slur admission devastates empire

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) -- Paula Deen announced Thursday that she has cut business ties with the agent who helped make her a Food Network star and launch a media and merchandising empire that has largely crumbled in the wake of her admission that she used racial slurs in the past.

Deen had worked with New York agent Barry Weiner for more than a decade. She has said he was instrumental in getting her show "Paula’s Home Cooking" on the Food Network in 2002. She gave no reason for her parting with Weiner in a prepared statement.

"Paula Deen has separated from her agent," Deen’s spokeswoman, Elana Weiss, said in an email Thursday. "She and her family thank him for the tireless effort and dedication over the many years."

Deen’s breakup with one of her key partners comes after a turbulent two weeks that have left the celebrity chef’s network of business deals in shambles. It all started within days of the public disclosure of a legal deposition in which Deen admitted under oath to having used the N-word.

The Food Network passed on renewing Deen’s contract and yanked her shows off the air. Smithfield Foods, the pork producer that paid Deen as a celebrity endorser, dropped her soon after. Retailers including Wal-Mart and Target said they’ll no longer sell Deen’s products and publisher Ballantine scuttled plans for her upcoming cookbook even though it was the No. 1 seller on Amazon. Even the diabetes drug company that made the much-criticized deal to hire Deen as a paid spokeswoman dumped her.