Tuesday July 9, 2013

Egypt fast-tracks timetable for amending constitution, holding
new elections by early 2014

CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt’s interim president has issued a swift timetable for the process of amending the constitution, setting parliamentary and presidential elections for early 2014.

Under the constitutional declaration by Adly Mansour late Monday, he would create two appointed committees to work out amendments to the Islamist-drafted constitution passed under ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

A referendum on the new document would be held within four months.

Elections for a new parliament would be held within two months after that, around mid-February. Once the new parliament convenes, it would have a week to set new presidential elections.

The declaration came after clashes with security forces early Monday left more than 50 Morsi supporters dead. Both sides exchanged blame over who sparked the bloodshed.

U.S. says immediate cutoff of aid to Egyptian military would hurt America’s security interests

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration signaled Monday that U.S. national security interests will trump its promotion of Egypt’s budding democracy, stressing the importance of continued aid to the Egyptian military, which overthrew the elected president last week.

As violence blazed between security forces and supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, the White House and State Department both urged the military to exercise "maximum restraint." They also said the military would not be punished with a cutoff of its $1.3 billion in annual U.S. aid for toppling Morsi.

But if the American government makes a legal determination that the removal was done through a coup d’etat, U.S. law would require ending all non-humanitarian aid to Egypt, the vast majority of which goes to the military.

Administration officials said lawyers were still reviewing developments to make that ruling. However, the absence of a coup determination, coupled with the administration’s refusal to condemn Morsi’s ouster, sent an implicit message of U.S. approval to the military.

And officials said the White House had made clear in U.S. inter-agency discussions -- as recently as a Monday morning conference call -- that continued aid to Egypt’s military was a priority for America’s national security, Israel’s safety and broader stability in the turbulent Middle East that should not be jeopardized.

NTSB chairwoman: Parts of plane that crashed in San Francisco found in seawall, water

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Asiana jet that crashed at San Francisco International Airport left lower sections of its tail on a rocky seawall and in the bay, then scattered debris several hundred feet down the runway, the NTSB reported Monday in describing the plane’s deadly path.

National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah Hersman said the lower portion of the plane’s tail cone was found in rocks inside the seawall. A "significant piece" of the tail of the aircraft was in the water, and other plane parts were visible at low tide, she said.

Hersman said at a news conference that investigators have reviewed airport surveillance video to determine whether an emergency vehicle ran over one of two teenage girls killed in Saturday’s crash but have not been able to reach any conclusions.

She called the possibility a "very serious issue."

"I can tell you that the two fatalities were located in seats towards the rear of the aircraft. This is an area of the aircraft that was structurally significantly damaged. It’s an area where we’re seeing a lot of the critical or serious injuries," Hersman said of the girls’ location.

From once-underestimated to ‘oops,’ Perry reshaped Texas
but faltered nationally -- so far

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Gov. Rick Perry was a champion of fiercely conservative social activism long before the tea party was born. He oversaw the "Texas Miracle" job-creation boom and became the state’s most powerful governor since Reconstruction.

But nationally, Perry is better known for his ‘oops’ presidential debate brain freeze or for not opposing forcefully enough the notion that Texas could secede from the union. For many outside the Lone Star State, he’s a political punchline on par with Dan Quayle -- if he’s known at all.

Now, the longest-serving governor in Texas history is quitting his day job. Perry announced Monday that he won’t seek a fourth full term in office next year, but notably didn’t say whether another run for the White House in 2016 could be next.

"The time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership. Today I’m announcing I will not seek re-election as governor of Texas," Perry said Monday. "I will spend the next 18 months working to create more jobs, opportunity and innovation. I will actively lead this great state. And I’ll also pray and reflect and work to determine my own future."

But for that future to include another run for president, Perry will first need to concentrate on rebuilding his tattered image outside of Texas.

Judge rules jurors may learn
that Trayvon Martin had pot
in body at time of death

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- A Florida judge has ruled that jurors at George Zimmerman’s trial may be told that Trayvon Martin had small amounts of marijuana in his body when he died.

Judge Debra Nelson on Monday denied a prosecution request to keep out parts of a toxicology report that shows Martin had small amounts of marijuana in his system.

Prosecutors argued the information would be prejudicial.

But defense attorneys said it was relevant since Zimmerman believed Martin was under the influence at the time he spotted him in his neighborhood.

Zimmerman is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder. He is claiming he fatally shot Martin in self-defense.

Report castigates Pakistani
officials for failing to detect
Osama bin Laden for years

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden was able to live in Pakistan undetected for nine years because of a breathtaking scale of negligence and incompetence at practically all levels of the Pakistani government, according to an official government report published by a TV channel on Monday.

The 336-page report was written by a commission tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding the covert U.S. raid that killed bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011. The pan-Arab Al-Jazeera satellite channel published the report on its website after it was leaked to the station by unknown sources.

Pakistani officials did not respond to requests for comment on the report’s authenticity.

The U.S. Navy SEALs raid that killed bin Laden in the northwest town of Abbottabad outraged Pakistani officials because they were not told about it beforehand. U.S. officials have said they kept Pakistan in the dark because they were worried the al-Qaida founder would be tipped off.

The fact that the compound where bin Laden was hiding was located only about one kilometer (half a mile) from Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point led many in the U.S. to suspect Pakistani officials of aiding the al-Qaida chief, although Washington never found evidence to back that up.

Pa. girl who got new lungs
after parents sued over transplant rules develops pneumonia

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl who had a pair of adult-lung transplants after her parents sued to change national rules regarding organ donations has developed pneumonia in her right lung, which her mother described on Monday as "a large setback."

Sarah Murnaghan’s mother wrote on her Facebook page that after a "tough" day on Sunday, Sarah’s condition had become more stable on Monday.

"We have an amazing team of doctors who go above and beyond but also walk this road with us in such a kind and compassionate way," Murnaghan wrote.

Officials at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where Sarah is being treated, have declined to comment on her case.

Sarah has been hospitalized for months with end-stage cystic fibrosis, a chronic genetic disorder that causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. The girl from Newtown Square, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb, was a top candidate for organs from a child donor but none were available. Her parents sued to change a national transplant policy that put her at the bottom of the adult list for patients 12 and older.

N.Y. judge gives Pa. father, son prison for promoting prostitution; acquitted of sex trafficking

NEW YORK (AP) -- A case that became a tabloid spectacle when high-priced prostitutes testified in support of father-and-son pimps from Pennsylvania ended Monday with the pair being sentenced to three to nine years in prison.

Prosecutors had sought a much stiffer sentence for Vincent George Sr. and Vincent George Jr., who were convicted by a judge last month of money laundering and promoting prostitution but acquitted of more serious sex-trafficking charges.

Judge Ruth Pickholtz announced the sentence on Monday without elaboration, and the defendants showed no strong reaction. But Desiree Ellis, an admitted prostitute who was a defense witness, openly wept as she sat in the audience.

Before hearing the sentence, the jailed Vincent George Jr. apologized to Ellis and other women "for not being there for them" since his arrest last year and for "wasting the court’s time." His father declined to speak, but prosecutors said that in pre-sentence interviews, both men refused to take responsibility for their crimes.

At trial, prosecutors alleged that George Sr., 56, and his son, 35, had used both threats of violence and false promises of riches to turn troubled women into virtual sex slaves. The defense argued their clients were exercising free will, calling them "happy hookers."

Country star Randy Travis hospitalized in critical condition with viral cardiomyopathy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Country music star Randy Travis was in critical condition Monday in a Texas hospital, a day after he was hospitalized viral cardiomyopathy.

A news release from the singer’s publicist says Travis was admitted to the hospital Sunday in Dallas and is in critical condition. Kirt Webster, Travis’ publicist, said no other details about Travis’ condition were available Monday.

Viral cardiomyopathy is a heart condition caused by a virus.

The illness is a continuation of a tough run for the 54-year-old "Three Wooden Crosses" singer after a handful of recent high-profile appearances, including a performance during the Country Music Association Festival’s nightly concert series.

Travis pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in January following his arrest last year when he was found naked after crashing his Pontiac Trans Am.