Mourners search for missing loved ones in
Egypt as death toll from violence soars to 638
CAIRO (AP) -- Weeping relatives in search of loved ones uncovered the faces of the bloodied, unclaimed dead in a Cairo mosque near the smoldering epicenter of support for ousted President Mohammed Morsi, as the death toll soared past 600 Thursday from Egypt’s deadliest day since the Arab Spring began.
World condemnation widened for the bloody crackdown Wednesday on Morsi’s mostly Islamist supporters, including an angry response from President Barack Obama, who canceled joint U.S.-Egyptian military maneuvers.
Violence spread Thursday, with government buildings set afire near the Pyramids, policemen gunned down and scores of Christian churches attacked. As turmoil engulfed the country, the Interior Ministry authorized the use of deadly force against protesters targeting police and state institutions.
The Muslim Brotherhood, trying to regroup after the assault on their encampments and the arrest of many of their leaders, called for a mass rally on Friday in a challenge to the government’s declaration of a monthlong nationwide state of emergency and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
At least 638 people were confirmed killed and nearly 4,000 wounded in the violence sparked when riot police backed by armored vehicles and bulldozers smashed the two sit-ins in Cairo where Morsi’s mainly Islamist supporters had been camped out for six weeks calling for his reinstatement. It was the deadliest day by far since the 2011 popular uprising that toppled autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak and plunged the country into more than two years of instability.
Obama cancels military exercises with Egypt in reaction to violence -- but keeps aid in place
CHILMARK, Mass. (AP) -- President Barack Obama scrapped plans for joint American-Egyptian military exercises Thursday, announcing the first concrete U.S. reaction to the spiraling violence in and around Cairo but stopping well short of withholding $1.3 billion in annual American military aid.
The measured response underscored the Obama administration’s concern that revoking financial support could further destabilize Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country and an important U.S. ally in a combustible region. And it was unclear whether the cancellation of the military exercises, known as Bright Star, would have any impact in stemming the violence that threatens the interim Egyptian government’s promises of a political transition following the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi.
The president, speaking from his rented vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard, warned that continued fighting would lead Egypt down a "dangerous path," and he called on both the government and protesters to show restraint. He said that while close engagement with Egypt was in U.S. national security interests, "our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back."
More than 600 were confirmed killed and thousands had been wounded since Wednesday in clashes between Egypt’s military-backed interim government and Morsi supporters. The government has declared a nationwide state of emergency and nighttime curfew.
Egypt’s political upheaval has put the Obama administration in an awkward diplomatic position. The White House strongly supported the pro-democracy protests that forced out longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but it has refused to condemn the military’s removal of Morsi, who was subsequently elected in the country’s first democratic balloting.
Republican plans to promote younger, diverse faces meet with skepticism at GOP gathering
BOSTON (AP) -- The Republican Party launched its latest effort Thursday to sell itself to a more diverse segment of the population, acknowledging a glaring weakness in the GOP’s ability to attract new voters in a country whose demographics are rapidly changing.
Some prominent Republicans expressed immediate skepticism at the party’s plans to shine a spotlight on its younger, minority up-and-comers. But Republican leaders say they can help broaden the party’s appeal by changing the faces of the GOP’s primary messengers. At stake is the Republican Party’s ability to compete against Democrats in elections for years to come.
"We have this stereotype of Republicans being old, white, Anglo-Saxon men. But there’s people like me that have been out there working for years," said 30-year-old New Hampshire state Rep. Marilinda Garcia, one of four people featured in a "Rising Stars" panel at the RNC’s summer meeting in Boston. "So they’re like, ‘Why not have her talk about our values instead of Newt Gingrich all the time?"’
RNC spokesmen have been instructed to promote Republicans like Garcia in media interviews, while other staffers have been hired to live and work in minority communities to pitch Republican values. GOP leaders say it’s an unprecedented effort.
Doubts by some leading Republicans underscored the continuing identity crisis for a party still struggling to regroup after a painful 2012 election season.
NTSB: Investigators recover flight recorders from UPS plane that crashed, killing 2 pilots
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Investigators found flight recorders on Thursday that could hold important clues about why a UPS jet crashed at Birmingham’s airport, killing two pilots.
The voice and flight data recorders were found among the wreckage of the plane that went down as it was attempting to land in Birmingham early Wednesday. The plane slammed into a hillside just short of the runway around daybreak Wednesday, killing the two pilots on board and scattering wreckage over a wide area. The aircraft rained pieces of metal into front yards and sheared off a piece of one family’s back deck.
Manning court-martial a mix of painful themes from the Pentagon’s last decade
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some of the Pentagon’s most painful themes of the past decade have played out at the court-martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning.
At its core, the trial is about a young soldier who orchestrated the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history, but it also dramatized some of the most confounding struggles at the Defense Department as it maneuvered through the longest period of war in the country’s history. They include the Pentagon’s internal conflict over gays in the military; the wisdom of counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, which often frustrated even the highest military commanders; and the struggle to find enough troops to fight both wars at once.
"You have a number of themes -- overarching themes -- and it’s rare to have all of that going on in one case," retired Army Judge Advocate Victor M. Hansen said.
"I can’t think of another case like it," said Hansen, now teaching at the New England School of Law in Boston. "It’s worth contemplating and thinking about."
The trial before military judge Col. Denise Lind was set to resume Friday at Fort Meade Army base outside Baltimore. Lind is expected to begin deliberating in the next couple of days over the prison sentence she’ll give the former intelligence analyst for his convictions last month on charges of espionage, computer fraud and theft of the documents he leaked to anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks while serving in Iraq in 2010.
Powerful car bomb kills 18 in south Beirut neighborhood that is Hezbollah stronghold
BEIRUT (AP) -- A powerful car bomb tore through a bustling south Beirut neighborhood that is a stronghold of Hezbollah on Thursday, killing at least 18 and trapping dozens of others in an inferno of burning cars and buildings in the bloodiest attack yet on Lebanese civilians linked to Syria’s civil war.
The blast is the second in just over a month to hit one of the Shiite militant group’s bastions of support, and the deadliest in decades. It raises the specter of a sharply divided Lebanon being pulled further into the conflict next door, which is being fought on increasingly sectarian lines pitting Sunnis against Shiites.
Syria-based Sunni rebels and militant Islamist groups fighting to topple Syria’s President Bashar Assad have threatened to target Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in retaliation for intervening on behalf of his regime in the conflict.
Thursday’s explosion ripped through a crowded, overwhelmingly Shiite area tightly controlled by Hezbollah, turning streets lined with vegetable markets, bakeries and shops into scenes of destruction.
Dozens of ambulances rushed to the site of the explosion and firefighters used cranes and ladders to try to evacuate terrified residents from burning buildings. Some fled to the rooftops of buildings and civil defense workers were still struggling to bring them down to safety several hours after the explosion.
Hagel memo seeks to blunt impact of Obama comments on military sexual assault
WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a highly unusual move to blunt the legal impact of the president’s comments on military sexual assaults, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered his top leaders to be sure to only base their judicial decisions on facts and their own independent judgment.
The one-page memo tells the military that even though senior U.S. leaders may openly condemn sexual assault, drug abuse, hazing and other crimes, such comments are not intended to sway the outcome of any particular case.
In early May, as high-profile incidents of sexual assault in the military spiked, President Barack Obama -- the nation’s commander in chief -- declared he had no tolerance for the matter.
"I don’t want just more speeches or awareness programs or training but, ultimately, folks look the other way," he said. "If we find out somebody is engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable -- prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period."
Obama’s remarks have already affected the outcome in some cases, including the decision by a judge in South Carolina to dismiss sexual assault charges against a soldier. Defense lawyers have argued that the president’s remarks amounted to unlawful command influence on the cases.
In Oklahoma City suburb hit by tornado, new school year awaits children seeking a fresh start
MOORE, Okla. (AP) -- One young girl is so afraid of the wind that she carries headphones to block out the sound. Other kids are traumatized by the memory of their narrow escape from the storm and the friends who died just a few feet away from them.
Nearly three months after a twister blasted through Moore and destroyed two elementary schools, students are preparing to go back to class. Although many families are ready to return to a familiar routine, parents and teachers say the town’s children have fears that are still fresh and a lot more healing to do.
Both schools -- Plaza Towers Elementary and Briarwood Elementary -- have been razed to concrete slabs, as have most of the surrounding homes. Students will attend class in temporary buildings starting Friday.
District officials hope the new school year marks a fresh start in the lives of children who survived the May 20 tornado, which killed 24 people and wrecked scores of homes and businesses along a 17-mile path through the heart of this Oklahoma City suburb.
"I’m not going to act as though those first couple of weeks (after the storm) weren’t so terribly difficult, because they were," said Superintendent Robert Romines, a longtime Moore resident who took the district’s top post over the summer. "But since that day, we have turned a lot of corners. After our last funeral, we turned a corner."
Painted nails, political flash point: Russian star assails homosexuality, gesture by Swedes
MOSCOW (AP) -- The rainbow colors two Swedish athletes painted their fingernails in support of gays and lesbians sent a clear message and brought a swift rebuke from a Russian star, perhaps even a glimpse of what’s to come at the Sochi Olympics.
Speaking at the world championships, pole vault gold medalist Yelena Isinbayeva condemned homosexuality and criticized the Swedes for their gesture critical of Russia’s new anti-gay legislation.
The law, which bans gay "propaganda," has drawn sharp criticism and led some Western activists to call for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in the Russian resort.
Isinbayeva won her third world title Tuesday before a boisterous home crowd, and drew even louder cheers Thursday when she received her gold medal. But before accepting it, the woman who will serve as "mayor" of one of the Sochi Olympic villages spoke in favor of the anti-gay stance.
"If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people," Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic champion, said in English. "We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys.