World in Brief
Florida socialite is at the center of overlapping scandals involving two Army generals
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- If you were to diagram the increasingly tangled sex scandal surrounding former CIA Director David Petraeus, nearly all lines would lead back to one person: Jill Kelley, a 37-year-old Tampa socialite who hosted parties for the nation’s top military brass.
Kelley’s complaint about anonymous, threatening email triggered the FBI investigation that led to Petraeus’ downfall. And now she is at the center of an investigation of the top U.S.commander in Afghanistan over alleged "inappropriate communications" between the two.
Kelley is a close friend of the Petraeus family, and photographs circulating in the media show the dark-haired woman posing for pictures at parties with Petraeus, his wife, and her husband, Scott, a cancer surgeon. She served as a sort of unofficial social ambassador for U.S. Central Command in Tampa, holding gatherings for the general when he was commander there from 2008 to 2010.
She also met Gen. John Allen while he was at Central Command, and now investigators are looking at 20,000-plus pages of documents and emails between Kelley and Allen, some of which have been described as "flirtatious." The general has denied any wrongdoing.
Allen succeeded Petraeus as the top American commander in Afghanistan in July 2011, and his nomination to become the next commander of U.S. European Command and the commander of NATO forces in Europe has now been put on hold, as the scandal seemed certain to ensnare another acclaimed military figure.
In a White House statement early Tuesday, National Security spokesman Tommy Vietor said President Barack Obama has held Allen’s nomination at Panetta’s request. Obama, the statement said, "remains focused on fully supporting our extraordinary troops and coalition partners in Afghanistan, who Gen. Allen continues to lead as he has so ably done for over a year."
For her part, Kelley has taken a low profile since Petraeus’ affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, became public.
France 1st in West to recognize new opposition group as sole representative of Syrian people
BEIRUT (AP) -- France on Tuesday became the first Western country to formally recognize Syria’s newly formed opposition coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
The U.S. also recognized the leadership body announced in Qatar Sunday as a legitimate representative, but stopped short of describing it as the "sole" one, saying the group must first demonstrate its ability to represent Syrians inside the country.
The two announcements could start a trend toward world recognition of the rebels as the legitimate government of Syria, undercutting whatever legitimacy the regime of President Bashar Assad still has after 20 months of a bloody civil war.
"We look forward to supporting the national coalition as it charts a course for the end of Assad’s bloody rule, and marks the start, we believe, of a peaceful just and democratic future for the people of Syria," said U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner in Washington.
Under intense international pressure to form an opposition that includes representatives from the country’s disparate factions fighting to topple President Bashar Assad, the anti-government groups struck a deal Sunday in Doha, Qatar, to form a coalition headed by former Muslim preacher Mouaz al-Khatib.
Attorneys wrap up preliminary hearing in case of U.S. soldier accused of Afghanistan massacre
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. (AP) -- Army prosecutors on Tuesday asked an investigative officer to recommend a death penalty court-martial for a staff sergeant accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in a predawn rampage, saying that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales committed "heinous and despicable crimes."
Prosecutors made their closing arguments after a week of testimony in the preliminary hearing. Prosecutors say Bales, 39, slipped away from his remote base at Camp Belambay in southern Afghanistan to attack two villages early on March 11. Among the dead were nine children.
The slayings drew such angry protests that the U.S. temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan, and it was three weeks before American investigators could reach the crime scenes.
"Terrible, terrible things happened," said prosecutor, Maj. Rob Stelle. "That is clear."
Stelle cited statements Bales made after he was apprehended, saying that they demonstrated "a clear memory of what he had done, and consciousness of wrong-doing."
Senate passes bill boosting payments to veterans
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate sent the White House a bill on Tuesday giving nearly 4 million veterans and survivors a 1.7 percent increase in their monthly benefit payments next year.
Democrats said the normally routine measure was delayed for weeks because an unidentified Republican senator objected to it.
Republicans were not given enough time to ensure that all senators were okay with the bill, said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He said the clearance process was completed soon after Congress adjourned for the elections and that Democrats could have brought the bill up if necessary.
When the Senate returned this week, it acted quickly to ensure that checks issued beginning in January reflect the adjustment for the higher cost of living.
The House approved the measure in July. The bill now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, welcomed the financial boost.
"Particularly in this difficult economy, our veterans deserve a boost in their benefits to help make ends meet," Murray said.
Cardinal Dolan: U.S. bishops won’t comply with Obama rule on birth control coverage in insurance
BALTIMORE (AP) -- A top American bishop said Tuesday the Roman Catholic church will not comply with the Obama administration requirement that most employers provide health insurance covering birth control.
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said church leaders are open to working toward a resolution with federal officials, but will meanwhile press ahead with challenges to the mandate in legislatures and in court.
"The only thing we’re certainly not prepared to do is give in. We’re not violating our consciences," Dolan told reporters at a national bishops’ meeting. "I would say no door is closed except for the door to capitulation."
The bishops have been fighting the regulation since it was announced by President Barack Obama early this year. Houses of worship are exempt, but religiously affiliated hospitals, charities and colleges are not.
Obama promised to change the requirement so that insurance companies, not faith-affiliated employers, would pay for the coverage. But details have not been worked out. And not only the bishops, but Catholic hospitals and some other religious leaders generally supportive of Obama’s health care overhaul have said the compromise proposed so far appears to be unworkable.
Police say letters show grandmother, uncle
that killed 3 Ohio kids
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- Letters found after an Ohio murder-suicide that killed three children indicate it was orchestrated by their grandmother and uncle, who were found dead with the youngsters in the family garage amid a disagreement over who should care for them, police said Tuesday.
Firefighters used a sledgehammer on Monday to force open a barricaded door to the garage, where a truck was running with hoses leading from the exhaust into the car that contained the bodies, police said.
Investigators said the relatives may have died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The family members were identified as 54-year-old Sandy Ford, her 32-year-old son, Andy Ford, and her grandchildren, 10-year-old Paige Hayes, 6-year-old Logan Hayes and 5-year-old Madalyn Hayes.
Until last week, the children had lived with Sandy Ford and her husband Randy at the house in a residential neighborhood close to the Michigan state line. Andy Ford also lived at the home.
Archduke Joseph Diamond fetches record $21.5 million in Geneva auction
GENEVA (AP) -- Christie’s has auctioned off the famed Archduke Joseph Diamond for $21,474,525 including commission, a world auction record price per carat for a colorless diamond.
The price was well above the expected $15 million and more than triple the price paid for it at auction almost two decades ago. The auction took place in Geneva.
The 76.02-carat diamond, with perfect color and internally flawless clarity, came from the ancient Golconda mines in India. It was named for Archduke Joseph August of Austria, the great grandson of both a Holy Roman emperor and a French king.
After years of manipulation, ‘guru’ who swindled French aristocratic family gets prison time
PARIS (AP) -- He started with the woman who hired him at the secretarial school, befriending her and winning her confidence. She introduced him to her elderly mother, her children. Her grandchildren, nearing adulthood, were next. Soon, Thierry Tilly was almost a member of the family of aristocrats.
Then he dropped the bombshell: Someone wanted them dead.
Bit by bit, family members saw sinister motives in even ordinary encounters. They retreated to their chateau, where Tilly took away their clocks, their calendars, their sense of time. One by one, they relocated with him to Oxford, England, then returned to their Bordeaux home where, the family lawyer said, they were cut off from friends and relatives.
"There was no day and no night," said the lawyer, Daniel Picotin.
Protection didn’t come cheap: They sold their ancestral home, apartments, jewels, wine collection, luxury watches -- more than 4.5 million euros in all -- handing over the proceeds to Tilly, a man they saw as their protector, even their "guru."
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