Europe mulls sanctions against U.S. amid
BERLIN (AP) -- The United States could lose access to an important law enforcement tool used to track terrorist money flows, German officials said Monday, as Europe weighs a response to allegations that the Americans spied on their closest European allies.
Spain became the latest U.S. ally to demand answers after a Spanish newspaper reported that the National Security Agency monitored more than 60 million phone calls in that country during one month alone. The report Monday came on the heels of allegations of massive NSA spying in France and Germany, including Chancellor Angela Merkel’s own cellphone.
With European leaders dissatisfied with the U.S. response so far, officials have been casting about for a way to pressure Washington to provide details of past surveillance and assurances that the practice will be curbed. The challenge is to send a strong message to Washington against wholesale spying on European citizens and institutions without further damage to the overall trans-Atlantic relationship.
As possible leverage, German authorities cited last week’s non-binding resolution by the European Parliament to suspend a post-9/11 agreement allowing the Americans access to bank transfer data to track the flow of terrorist money.
German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said Monday she believed the Americans were using the information to gather economic intelligence apart from terrorism and that the deal should be suspended. That would represent a sharp rebuke to the United States from some of its closest partners.
Some troops use liposuction to pass body-fat test, avoid ‘pork chop platoon’
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Soldiers often call plastic surgeon Adam Tattelbaum in a panic. They need liposuction -- fast.
Some military personnel are turning to the surgical procedure to remove excess fat from their waists in a desperate attempt to pass the Pentagon’s body fat test, which relies on measurements of the neck and waist and can determine their future prospects in the military.
"They come in panicked about being kicked out or getting a demerit that will hurt their chances at a promotion," the Rockville, Md., surgeon said.
Service members complain that the Defense Department’s method of estimating body fat weeds out not just flabby physiques but bulkier, muscular builds.
Fitness experts agree and have joined the calls for the military’s fitness standards to be revamped. They say the Pentagon’s weight tables are outdated and do not reflect that Americans are now bigger, though not necessarily less healthy.
Beleaguered Syrian Christians fear future, increasingly targeted by jihadis
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- Sami Amir is used to the deep echoing rumble of the Syrian army artillery pounding rebel positions on the outskirts of Damascus. It’s the thump of mortars launched from an Islamist-controlled neighborhood that scares him to death.
The mortars have repeatedly hit in his mainly Christian district of Damascus, al-Qassaa, reportedly killing at least 32 people and injuring dozens of others the past two weeks.
"You don’t know when and you don’t know where they hit," says Amir, a 55-year-old Christian merchant. "Life here is often too difficult."
Rebel shelling into the capital has increasingly hit several majority-Christian districts, particularly al-Qassaa, with its wide avenues, middle class apartment blocks, leafy parks, popular restaurants and shopping streets busy with pedestrians.
The shelling and recent rebel assaults on predominantly Christian towns have fueled fears among Syria’s religious minorities about the growing role of Islamic extremists and foreign fighters among the rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad’s rule. Christians believe they are being targeted -- in part because of the anti-Christian sentiment among extremists and in part as punishment for what is seen as their support for Assad.
Penn State says it is paying $59.7M to 26 young men over Jerry Sandusky abuse claims
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Penn State said Monday it is paying $59.7 million to 26 young men over claims of child sexual abuse at the hands of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, a man once revered as a university icon who is now serving what is effectively a life prison sentence.
Nearly two years after the retired coach was first charged with child molestation, the school said 23 deals were fully signed and three were agreements in principle. It did not disclose the names of the recipients.
The school faces six other claims, and the university says it believes some of those do not have merit while others may produce settlements.
"We cannot undo what has been done, but we can and must do everything possible to learn from this and ensure it never happens again at Penn State," University president Rodney Erickson said in a statement.
Hurricane-force gusts batter UK, Europe;
13 dead, trees uprooted, travel chaos
LONDON (AP) -- A savage coastal storm powered by hurricane-force gusts slashed its way through Britain and western Europe on Monday, felling trees, flooding lowlands and snarling traffic in the air, at sea and on land. At least 13 people were reported killed.
It was one of the worst storms to hit the region in years. The deadly tempest had no formal name -- and wasn’t officially classified as a hurricane due to a meteorological standard -- but it was dubbed the St. Jude storm (after the patron saint of lost causes) and stormageddon on social networks.
Gusts of 99 miles per hour were reported on the Isle of Wight in southern England, while gusts up to 80 mph hit the British mainland. Later in the day, the Danish capital of Copenhagen saw record gusts up of to 120 mph and an autobahn in central Germany was shut down by gusts up to 62 mph.
All across the region, people were warned to stay indoors. Hundreds of trees were uprooted or split, blocking roads and crushing cars. The Dutch were told to leave their beloved bicycles at home for safety’s sake.
DC police: Chris Brown, companion punched man who tried to get into photo
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Chris Brown is accused of punching a man who says he tried to get into a photo with the singer outside a hotel, according to police, the latest legal trouble for the Grammy Award-winning artist.
The 24-year-old singer is expected to appear in court Monday on a felony assault charge. Another man, Christopher Hollosy, also was charged with felony assault in the altercation that started just before 4:30 a.m. Sunday, police say. It happened near the W Hotel, not far from the White House.
Police would not say how Hollosy and Brown may have known each other.
The altercation began after the man tried to get into a picture with Brown and two other people, according to his account in the police report, which also quotes the man as saying Brown told him, "I’m not down with that gay s---" and "I feel like boxing." The exact context of Brown’s remarks was not immediately clear.
The man told police Brown punched him in the face, and police say the area around his nose was swollen and bruised. Another man stepped between them and also punched the man before grabbing Brown by the arm and leading him toward the tour bus, according to the report.
Federal judge declares some Texas abortion restrictions unconstitutional
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- A federal judge has determined that new Texas abortion restrictions violate the U.S. Constitution, a ruling that keeps open -- at least for now -- dozens of abortion clinics that were set to halt operations Tuesday had key parts of the law taken effect.
In a decision released Monday that the state is certain to appeal, District Judge Lee Yeakel wrote that the regulations requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital creates an undue obstacle to women seeking an abortion.
"The admitting-privileges provision of House Bill 2 does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the state in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman’s health and, in any event, places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her," he wrote.
While Yeakel found that the state could regulate how a doctor prescribes an abortion-inducing pill, he said the law did not allow for a doctor to adjust treatment taken in order to best protect the health of the woman taking it. Therefore he blocked the provision requiring doctors to follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocol for the pills in all instances.
"The medication abortion provision may not be enforced against any physician who determines, in appropriate medical judgment, to perform the medication-abortion using off-label protocol for the preservation of the life or health of the mother," Yeakel, appointed by President George W. Bush, wrote.
Chemical weapons inspectors in Syria miss one of first deadlines due to security concerns
BEIRUT (AP) -- International inspectors overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile have missed an early deadline in a brutally tight schedule after security concerns prevented them from visiting two sites linked to Damascus’ chemical program.
Experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were to have checked all 23 of Syria’s declared chemical sites by Sunday, but the organization said Monday that inspectors have visited only 21 because of security issues. While there are no consequences for missing the deadline, the group’s failure to meet it underscores the ambitious timeline as well as the risks its inspectors face in carrying out their mission in the middle of Syria’s civil war.
The OPCW did not say who was responsible for the security problems, but the organizations’ director-general has said in the past that temporary cease-fires may have to be negotiated between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad to reach some sites. The chemical weapons watchdog said it has not given up hope of gaining access to the two locations.
"Negotiations continue to try to get security guarantees so our inspectors can go in," OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said.
The joint OPCW-U.N. mission faces a string of target dates for specific tasks as it aims to achieve the overall goal of ridding Syria of its chemical stockpile by mid-2014. Luhan said the next deadline is Nov. 1, by which time Syria has to complete "functional destruction of the critical equipment for all its chemical weapons production facilities and mixing-filing plants." Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef to be investigated over jokes about military, government
CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt’s top prosecutor on Monday ordered an investigation into a complaint that satirist Bassem Youssef, known as the country’s "Jon Stewart," harmed national interests by ridiculing the country’s military in his first program of the season.
The decision could be a prelude to further action against the popular comedian such as questioning and a possible trial, posing a litmus test for the deeply divided country’s tolerance for criticism of the military and its leaders nearly four months after Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was toppled in a coup.
Critics have expressed concerns that the military could expand a deadly crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood, which won a series of elections after the 2011 revolution but came under allegations it was trying to monopolize power.
While most Egyptians appear to support the military’s actions against the Islamists, the detentions earlier this year of an Egyptian labor lawyer and a journalist prompted rights activists to complain the military-backed government was trying to silence any dissent.
Youssef could not be reached for comment on the complaints and has remained largely silent on the issue, although he took to Twitter after Friday’s show to remind the public: "It is only an episode in a program, people."