Saturday July 6, 2013

In major pushback, Egypt Islamists battle opponents in surge
to restore Morsi;
10 killed

CAIRO (AP) -- Enraged Islamists pushed back against the toppling of President Mohammed Morsi, as tens of thousands of his supporters marched in Cairo on Friday to demand his reinstatement and attacked his opponents. Nighttime clashes raged with stone-throwing, firecrackers and gunfire, and military armored vehicles raced across a Nile River bridge in a counterassault on Morsi’s supporters.

Mayhem nationwide left at least 10 people dead and 210 wounded as Morsi supporters stormed government buildings, vowing to reverse the military’s removal of the country’s first freely elected president. Among the dead were four killed when troops opened fire on a peaceful march by Islamists on the Republican Guard headquarters.

In a dramatic appearance -- his first since Morsi’s ouster -- the supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood defiantly vowed the president would return. "God make Morsi victorious and bring him back to the palace," Mohammed Badie proclaimed from a stage before a crowd of cheering supporters at a Cairo mosque. "We are his soldiers we defend him with our lives."

Badie addressed the military, saying it was a matter of honor for it to abide by its pledge of loyalty to the president, in what appeared to be an attempt to pull it away from its leadership that removed Morsi. "Your leader is Morsi ... Return to the people of Egypt," he said. "Your bullets are not to be fired on your sons and your own people."

After nightfall, moments after Badie’s speech, a large crowed of Islamists surged across 6th October Bridge over the Nile toward Tahrir Square, where a giant crowd of Morsi’s opponents had been massed all day. Battles broke out there at near the neighboring state TV building with gunfire and stone throwing and burning car barricade at an exit ramp.

Syrian army fires heavy artillery barrages on Homs as UN warns of humanitarian catastrophe

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian government troops unleashed a major artillery barrage on the city of Homs on Friday, hitting buildings near a 13th century mosque as they pressed an assault on rebel-held areas in the country’s strategic heartland.

Opposition activists said Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas had joined the fighting in Syria’s third largest city. If confirmed, it would be the first major involvement for the Iranian-backed group since it helped regime troops capture a key border town from the rebels last month.

As the shells landed, thousands of civilians trapped in the city faced severe shortages of food, water and medicine, prompting the U.N. and opposition groups to warn of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad have suffered a series of setbacks recently, including the loss of the strategic town of Qusair near the Lebanese border last month. Despite recent shipments of more advanced weapons from Gulf Arab countries, they have been unable to score any major gains in the past few weeks.

The powerful Hezbollah, a staunch ally of the regime, was instrumental in the regime’s victory in Qusair. Opposition activists say the group’s fighters have spread out in Homs and even parts of Aleppo in the north, propping up outstretched army troops.

Spain says Europeans were warned NSA leaker Snowden was aboard Bolivian presidential plane

MADRID (AP) -- Spain on Friday said it had been warned along with other European countries that former U.S. intelligence worker Edward Snowden was aboard the Bolivian presidential plane this week, an acknowledgement that the manhunt for the fugitive leaker had something to do with the plane’s unexpected diversion to Austria.

It is unclear whether the United States, which has told its European allies that it wants Snowden back, warned Madrid about the Bolivian president’s plane. U.S. officials will not detail their conversations with European countries, except to say that they have stated the U.S.’s general position that it wants Snowden back.

President Barack Obama has publicly displayed a relaxed attitude toward Snowden’s movements, saying last month that he wouldn’t be "scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker."

But the drama surrounding the flight of Bolivian President Evo Morales, whose plane was abruptly rerouted to Vienna after apparently being denied permission to fly over France, suggests that pressure is being applied behind the scenes.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told Spanish National Television that "they told us that the information was clear, that he was inside."

Pope Francis clears John Paul II for sainthood, decides to canonize John XXIII without miracle

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis on Friday cleared two of the 20th century’s most influential popes to become saints, approving a miracle needed to canonize Pope John Paul II and waiving Vatican rules to honor Pope John XXIII.

It was a remarkable show of papal authority and confirmed Francis’ willingness to bend church tradition when it comes to things he cares deeply about. Both popes are also closely identified with the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that brought the Catholic Church into modern times, an indication that Francis clearly wants to make a statement about the council’s role in shaping the church today.

Francis approved a decree that a Costa Rican woman’s inexplicable cure from a deadly brain aneurism was the "miracle" needed to canonize John Paul. More significantly, he decided that John XXIII, who convened Vatican II, could be declared a saint even without a second miracle attributed to his intercession. The Vatican said Francis had the power to dispense with such requirements and could proceed with only one confirmed miracle to John’s name.

The ceremony is expected before the end of the year. The date of Dec. 8 has been floated as likely, given it’s the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a major feast day for the church that honors Mary, to whom both saintly popes were particularly devoted. Polish prelates continue to press for October, to mark the 35th anniversary of the Polish-born John Paul’s election, but Vatican officials have suggested that’s too soon to organize such a massive event.

The announcement came on a remarkable day melding papacies past and present: It opened with Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI attending their first Vatican ceremony together, sitting side-by-side on matching papal chairs for the unveiling of a statue in the Vatican gardens. It continued with the publication of Francis’ first encyclical, a meditation on faith that was largely written by Benedict before he retired but was signed by Francis. And it climaxed with Francis’ decision to canonize two other predecessors.

Fireworks accident in California injures more than 30,
cause still unknown

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) -- As many as 10,000 Fourth of July revelers were just settling into their seats for the fireworks show at a Simi Valley park when a bright plume of red and white bursts spread across the ground, injuring more than 30 people and sending others fleeing for safety.

Police in the city northwest of Los Angeles were still investigating what caused Thursday night’s explosion. They said the cause was still unknown, although they had earlier indicated it appeared a firework detonated prematurely in its mortar, knocking over a row of others.

A view of the scene from a distance Friday morning showed groups of mortars held vertically in box-like wooden structures sitting on the ground. In front of them, a number of mortar tubes lay horizontally scattered on the ground. Cellphone videos captured fireworks exploding in spheres of sparks close to the ground, with smoke and people screaming.

The victims ranged in age from 8 to 78 years old, Sgt. Tom Meyer said. A total of 20 people were taken by ambulance to area hospitals. Four suffered serious, but not life-threatening, injuries.

One police officer who ran into the crowd when the blasts occurred had shrapnel tear through his leather belt and his clothing, Shannon said. He had minor injuries to his back.

Zimmerman jurors leave after eventful day

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- Jurors in the George Zimmerman trial are leaving the courtroom after an eventful day.

Prosecutors rested their case Friday, a day in which Zimmerman’s mother and Trayvon Martin’s mother each testified that it was her son, not the other woman’s, who can be heard screaming for help on a 911 call.

Judge Debra Nelson denied a request by defense attorneys to acquit Zimmerman of second-degree murder after prosecutors rested.

Defense attorney Mark O’Mara argued that the state didn’t prove its case, and that Zimmerman was acting in self-defense.

Prosecutor Richard Mantei told the judge Zimmerman was a liar and had changed his story.