Thousands flee as Syrian rebels wage guerrilla war
BEIRUT (AP) -- Rebels pressed their guerrilla fight to topple Syria’s regime deeper into the capital on Friday, ambushing troops and attacking police stations as thousands of terrified civilians fled to Lebanon and Iraq to escape some of the worst violence of the 16-month conflict.
The two-day death toll was more than 470 people, marking some of the deadliest of the uprising.
The U.N. refugee agency said between 8,500 and 30,000 Syrians had entered Lebanon in the past 48 hours, and thousands of Iraqis have also returned home, a bitter trip for many who fled to Syria from their own country’s civil war.
In Damascus, Syrian forces recaptured one battle-scarred neighborhood and proudly showed reporters the dead bodies of rebel fighters lying in rubble-strewn streets.
But rebels said they withdrew to expand their guerrilla war, pointing to the difficulty both sides will have in achieving victory in Damascus, the central bastion of President Bashar Assad’s rule.
ACLU: E-mails from Ariz. lawmaker support claims immigration law was racially motivated
PHOENIX (AP) -- Opponents of Arizona’s hardline immigration enforcement law contend that emails sent, received and forwarded by a former legislator who championed the law support allegations it was racially motivated.
Dozens of emails are cited in a new legal
The groups said the emails and other material reveal that ex-Sen. Russell Pearce and other supporters of the law known as SB1070 embraced discriminatory views and bent the truth about immigration-related matters, setting the stage for enactment of a law that the groups contend will lead to racial profiling if enforced.
Russell is the architect of Arizona’s immigration law.
Ark. school nurse worked for 5 years
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- A woman who worked for five years as a nurse at an Arkansas elementary school never actually had a license, authorities said Friday.
Suzanne Elaina Johnson, 49, of Pleasant Plains, who also went by Suzanne Pitts, is charged with practicing nursing without a license and has a court appearance set for Aug. 2 for the misdemeanor charge. Johnson had worked at Sidney Deener Elementary School in the Searcy School District since 2007. Searcy is about 50 miles northwest of Little Rock.
The attorney for the Arkansas Nursing Board, Fred Knight, said that while it takes only a few seconds on the agency’s website to confirm whether a person has a nursing license, it’s unlikely the school district would check it.
"In all fairness to the school, the school is in the business of educating. They check and verify licenses for teachers and instructors. It probably never occurred to them to check the nurse’s license," Knight said.
The agency’s website shows she has never been licensed in Arkansas as a nurse. A national registry doesn’t show Johnson licensed either, Knight said.
The Nursing Board never received any complaints about how Johnson treated patients. A state Health Department nursing consultant who advises schools was the first to raise a question about Johnson’s license, according to the board’s investigative file, which The Associated Press obtained through an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act request.
The school district is "going back and monitoring our procedures to safeguard against something like this occurring again," Superintendent Dianne Barrett said.
She said Johnson "technically" remains employed by the district. The Nursing Board file on Johnson shows she was working as a summer school nurse and "will be relieved of that duty until she can present a verifiable and current Arkansas nursing license."
Johnson was arrested July 10 and released the same day on $5,500 bond.
There was no answer at a phone number for Johnson and she didn’t reply to a text message from The Associated Press. Knight said the board has also tried to contact her without success. The Searcy District Court clerk’s office said no attorney was listed in Johnson’s case file.
Anderson said on her job application with the Searcy district that she graduated from Vanderbilt University with a nursing degree and that she was also an EMT.
Problems with Johnson’s licensure documents include formatting and font type that are inconsistent with computer-generated licenses issued by the Nursing Board and an expiration date that doesn’t match the license renewal cycle, according to the investigative file.
Homeland Security takes boy with tumor from dangerous Mexican city to NM for treatment
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- A 9-year-old boy with a massive tumor was whisked from a dangerous neighborhood in Mexico in an armored vehicle by U.S. agents and taken across the border for treatment in New Mexico, his family said.
The boy and his parents were snatched Thursday from the gang-infested neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez -- one of the deadliest cities in the world -- after members of a New Mexico Baptist church saw him near an orphanage and sought help.
The parents of the child, identified by officials only as Jose to protect his family, said the tumor on his shoulder and neck has grown so large that it affects his eyesight and could move into his heart.
With no money for medical care, the family sought treatment in Juarez and El Paso, but did not receive any help removing the tumor, which has afflicted Jose since birth.
Si Budagher, pastor of First Baptist Church of Rio Rancho, N.M., said church members spotted the boy while doing missionary work and felt compelled to help him.
Former President George W. Bush is skipping GOP convention
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former President George W. Bush is skipping the Republican National Convention next month in Tampa, Fla., where presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney will officially become the party’s standard-bearer.
"President Bush was grateful for the invitation," his spokesman, Freddy Ford, said Friday in an email. He added that the 43rd president "is confident that Mitt Romney will be a great president. But he’s still enjoying his time off the political stage and respectfully declined the invitation to go to Tampa."
Bush’s presence at the convention could undercut Romney’s argument that he knows better than President Barack Obama when it comes to improving the wobbly economy. A CBS News/New York Times poll this month found more voters say Bush deserves the bulk of the blame for the nation’s economic downturn than think Obama bears a lot of the responsibility. Almost two-thirds of voters think Romney’s economic policies would mirror Bush’s at least somewhat.
Bush was deeply unpopular when he left office in 2009 amid the nation’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. He has largely stayed out of politics since returning to Texas with his wife, Laura.
In a recent interview with the Hoover Institution’s Peter Robinson, Bush left little doubt that he prefers to observe the often-messy process.
Olympic flame arrives in London, host city shifts into higher gear
LONDON (AP) -- With the flame comes the games.
After years of preparation and months of buildup, London’s Olympic moment finally arrived Friday night.
Royal Marine Martyn Williams carried the Olympic torch as he rappelled down from a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter into the Tower of London on the shore of the River Thames. The commando’s grand entrance plunged the symbol of the games into the city’s historic heart, bringing Olympic pageantry to the British capital that last held the event in 1948.
Crowds lined the city’s famed river banks to see the torch arrive, while Yeoman warders -- the ceremonial Tower guards popularly known as Beefeaters -- looked on from inside the landmark’s grounds.
For Londoners, the arrival of the torch ignites a time of excitement -- as well as four weeks of extreme crowds and transport strains.
5 killed, including
3 children, in
Newark, N.J., fire
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- A fast-moving New Jersey apartment house fire that began in a vacant building next door has killed five people, including three young children.
Fire officials say those killed Friday lived in two third-floor apartments in Newark’s Vailsburg neighborhood.
A 3-year-old girl and her 4-year-old brother died in a back apartment. Their mother and father escaped the blaze with two other children. A father and his 6-year-old daughter and teenage son died in the other apartment.
The fire started just before 2 a.m. and quickly escalated, damaging four other buildings. The cause is under investigation.
Mayor Cory Booker says the deaths are a tragedy for everyone in the state’s largest city.
Zimbabwe constitution ready after years of political wrangling
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- Zimbabwe’s constitutional affairs minister says an all-party panel has finally completed a draft of the country’s new constitution after three years of bitter political wrangling.
Eric Matinenga said Friday copies of the new constitution will be distributed ahead of a planned referendum in line with the terms of a power sharing agreement brokered by regional leaders following violent and disputed elections in 2008.
President Robert Mugabe, the southern African nation’s authoritarian ruler since 1980, has called for early elections to end the nation’s fragile unity government, even without a new constitution.
Matinenga said the proposed constitution will limit the presidency to two five-year terms in the future. But 88-year-old Mugabe will still be able to run for office.
Mugabe’s party has been accused of trying to sabotage changes threatening its long entrenched powers.
Officials in Greece say deficit-cutting effort beating targets
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece’s Finance Ministry says it beat deficit-busting targets in the first half of the year, despite lower than expected tax revenues.
A ministry statement says the crisis-mired country’s budget deficit hit (euro) 12.5 billion ($15.2 billion) in January-June, lower than the target of (euro) 14.9 billion ($18.2 billion). It said the primary deficit -- which excludes the cost of servicing Greece’s massive debts -- was (euro) 3.3 billion, better than the targeted (euro) 5.3 billion.
Friday’s statement said revenues fell (euro) 1.5 billion short of the (euro) 24.7 billion target. It attributed this mainly to extensions in income tax declaration deadlines.
Greece wants to cut its deficit to 7.3 percent of annual output this year, from 9.1 percent last year. The deficit reached a staggering 15.8 percent of GDP in 2009.
UK couple jailed for anti-Jewish terror plot
LONDON (AP) -- A husband-and-wife team of Islamic extremists were jailed Friday for plotting attacks against the Jewish community in the northern English city of Manchester.
Mohammed Sajid Khan was sentenced to at least seven years and six months in jail -- with the eventual length to be set by prison authorities -- while his wife Shasta was given an eight year prison term.
Judge Alan Wilkie said the couple had accumulated a stockpile of bomb-making supplies at their home and had planned to detonate an improvised explosive at a Jewish site in Manchester.
"Your preparations were serious and well advanced over a broad front so that, if undisturbed, I am satisfied that before too long you would have been in a position to launch a potentially deadly attack," Wilkie said.
Wilkie told Manchester Crown Court that he regarded Khan, 33, as a violent criminal and a "committed Islamic extremist," while his 38-year-old wife had become "a devoted jihadist" under her husband’s influence.
Police foiled the planned terrorist plot after they were called to the couple’s home in Oldham, northern England, following a domestic dispute and uncovered bomb-equipment and a guide on constructing improvised explosive devices.