Rebuking GOP for refusing to act, Obama says he’ll act on his own to try to fix immigration
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Conceding defeat on a top domestic priority, President Barack Obama blamed a Republican "year of obstruction" for the demise of sweeping immigration legislation on Monday and said he would take new steps without Congress to fix as much of the system as he can on his own.
"The only thing I can’t do is stand by and do nothing," the president said. But he gave few hints about what steps he might take by executive action.
Even as he blamed House Republicans for frustrating him on immigration, Obama asked Congress for more money and additional authority to deal with the unexpected crisis of a surge of unaccompanied Central American youths arriving by the thousands at the Southern border. Obama wants flexibility to speed the youths’ deportations and $2 billion in new money to hire more immigration judges and open more detention facilities, requests that got a cool reception from congressional Republicans and angered advocates.
The twin announcements came as the administration confronted the tricky politics of immigration in a midterm election year with Democratic control of the Senate in jeopardy. The fast-developing humanitarian disaster on the border has provoked calls for a border crackdown at the same moment that immigration advocates are demanding Obama loosen deportation rules in the face of congressional inaction.
Obama’s announcement came almost a year to the day after the Senate passed a historic immigration bill that would have spent billions to secure the border and offered a path to citizenship for many of the 11.5 million people now here illegally. Despite the efforts of an extraordinary coalition of businesses, unions, religious leaders, law enforcement officials and others, the GOP-led House never acted.
Discovery of 11-year-old boy’s body in Texas draws attention to perils of child immigration
EDINBURG, Texas (AP) -- When authorities found the body of an 11-year-old boy in South Texas, a phone number for his brother in Chicago was scribbled on the inside of his belt buckle.
The boy, wearing "Angry Birds" jeans, black leather boots and a white rosary around his neck, had come from his home country of Guatemala and apparently got lost in the Texas brush, just a few miles from the border with Mexico and less than a mile from the nearest home.
While hundreds of immigrants die crossing the border each year, the discovery of Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez’s decomposed body in the Rio Grande Valley earlier this month highlights the perils unaccompanied children face as the U.S.government searches for ways to deal with record numbers of children crossing into the country illegally.
"Down here finding a decomposed body ... we come across them quite often," Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra said Monday, adding that this was the first child immigrant his office has found since he became sheriff in April. "It’s a very dangerous journey."
Militants’ declaration of Islamic state threatens to erode tenuous ties with other Sunnis
BAGHDAD (AP) -- A militant extremist group’s unilateral declaration of an Islamic state is threatening to undermine its already-tenuous alliance with other Sunnis who helped it overrun much of northern and western Iraq.
One uneasy ally has vowed to resist if the militants try to impose their strict interpretation of Shariah law.
Fighters from the al-Qaida breakaway group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have spearheaded the offensive in recent weeks that has plunged Iraq into its deepest crisis since the last U.S. troops left in 2011. The group’s lightning advance has brought under its control territory stretching from northern Syria as far as the outskirts of Baghdad in central Iraq.
In a bold move Sunday, the group announced the establishment of its own state, or caliphate, governed by Islamic law. It proclaimed its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a highly ambitious Iraqi militant with a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head, to be the caliph, and it demanded that Muslims around the world pledge allegiance to him.
Through brute force and meticulous planning, the Sunni extremist group -- which said it was changing its name to simply the Islamic State, dropping the reference to Iraq and the Levant -- has managed to effectively erase the Syria-Iraq border and lay the foundations of its proto-state. Along the way, it has battled Syrian rebels, Kurdish militias and the Syrian and Iraqi militaries.
Aiming to turn the page, Obama taps former P&G CEO to take
over troubled Veterans Affairs
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama sought to turn the page Monday on a humiliating chapter in the history of the Veterans Affairs Department, tapping former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald to take over the sprawling agency.
A former Army captain, McDonald would bring a blend of corporate and military experience to a bureaucracy reeling from revelations of chronic, system-wide failure and veterans dying while on long waiting lists for treatment. His selection reflects Obama’s desire to put a tested manager in charge as the White House calls for a top-to-bottom overhaul of the VA.
"What especially makes Bob the right choice to lead the VA right now is his three decades of experience building and managing one of the world’s most recognizable companies," Obama said at VA headquarters. "In short, he’s about delivering better results."
McDonald, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, framed his new task in the context of his corporate experience. Joined by his wife and family for the announcement, McDonald, 61, said he planned to put veterans at the center of everything the VA does -- a bureaucratic twist on the old adage that the customer is always right.
"At the VA, the veteran is our customer and we must all focus all day every day on getting them the benefits and the care that they have so earned," McDonald said. "That’s the only reason we are here."
Israel finds bodies of three kidnapped teens in West Bank,
says ‘Hamas will pay’
JERUSALEM (AP) -- The Israeli military found the bodies of three missing teenagers on Monday, just over two weeks after they were abducted in the West Bank, allegedly by Hamas militants -- a grisly discovery that culminated a feverish search that led to Israel’s largest ground operation in the Palestinian territory in nearly a decade and raised fears of renewed fighting with Hamas.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed tough action as he convened an emergency meeting of his Security Cabinet.
"Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay," the Israeli leader said in a statement, adding the teenagers "were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by human animals." In Washington, President Barack Obama urged restraint.
Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, a 16-year-old with dual Israeli-American citizenship, disappeared June 12 while hitchhiking home from the Jewish seminaries where they were studying near the West Bank city of Hebron. Despite the dangers, hitchhiking is common among Israelis traveling in and out of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said the bodies were found "under a pile of rocks" near the village of Halhul, just north of Hebron.
Leading doctors’ group says it’s time to rethink routine pelvic exams for most healthy women
WASHINGTON (AP) -- No more dreaded pelvic exam? New guidelines say most healthy women can skip the yearly ritual.
Routine pelvic exams don’t benefit women who have no symptoms of disease and who aren’t pregnant, and they can cause harm, the American College of Physicians said Monday as it recommended that doctors quit using them as a screening tool.
It’s part of a growing movement to evaluate whether many longtime medical practices are done more out of habit than necessity, and the guideline is sure to be controversial.
Scientific evidence "just doesn’t support the benefit of having a pelvic exam every year," said guideline coauthor Dr. Linda Humphrey of the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University.
"There will be women who are relieved, and there are women who really want to go in and talk with their doctor about it and will choose to continue this," she added.
GM recalls another 8.2 million cars for ignition switch problems
as recall crisis grows
DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors’ safety crisis worsened on Monday when the automaker added 8.2 million vehicles to its ballooning list of cars recalled over faulty ignition switches.
The latest recalls involve mainly older midsize cars and bring GM’s total this year to 29 million, surpassing the 22 million recalled by all automakers last year. The added recalls also raise questions about the safety of ignition switches in cars made by all manufacturers.
GM said the recalls are for "unintended ignition key rotation" and cover seven vehicles, including the Chevrolet Malibu from 1997 to 2005, the Pontiac Grand Prix from 2004 to 2008, and the 2003-2014 Cadillac CTS.
The company is aware of three deaths, eight injuries and seven crashes involving the vehicles, although it has no conclusive evidence that faulty switches caused the accidents.
CEO Mary Barra said the recalls stem from an extensive safety review within the company.
GM compensation expert says company places no limit on what he can pay ignition switch victims
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The attorney overseeing General Motors’ compensation to victims of small-car crashes says there’s no limit to what the company will pay, provided the crashes were caused by faulty ignition switches. The tally could climb into billions of dollars.
GM links 13 deaths to defective ignition switches in cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion. But trial lawyers and lawmakers say hundreds of others could file claims of wrongful death and injury.
Kenneth Feinberg, one of the country’s top compensation experts, said Monday that GM has placed no cap on the total amount he can pay to injured people or relatives of those killed. And he alone -- not GM -- will decide how much they each will get, even though he is being paid by the company, which did not like some of the program’s provisions.
Feinberg would not estimate the ultimate cost for GM, saying he has no idea how many claims will be made. But based on the methodology he plans to use, a large number of claims could raise the total settlement into the hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions.
Diamond dog coughs up
missing wedding ring
STEVENS POINT, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin woman who lost her diamond wedding ring five years ago had given up all hope of finding it after searching high and low.
It turns out her mischievous dog may have had it all along.
Lois Matykowski (mat-ih-KOW’-skee), of Stevens Point, was eating an ice pop two weeks ago when she noticed her granddaughter’s treat was gone. Her dog, Tucker, was smacking his jaws. The 10-year-old mutt the family calls the "food burglar" had struck again, swallowing it whole.
The snatched food soon came back up. Two days later, Tucker threw up again. Matykowski said that this time when she went to clean up the mess, she found her missing ring.
Her veterinarian says the Popsicle stick may have dislodged the ring inside his belly.