Isaac strengthens to Category 1 hurricane as it approaches the Gulf Coast
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Finally a hurricane, the unwieldy and wobbly Isaac bore down on New Orleans Tuesday, almost seven years to the day that Hurricane Katrina transformed this city and became a symbol of government ineptitude, and a defining moment for leaders from City Hall to the White House.
While Isaac was far less powerful than the 2005 storm, it posed some of the same political challenges. President Barack Obama sought to demonstrate his ability to guide the nation through a natural disaster and Republicans reassured residents they were prepared, all the while readying for the coronation of Mitt Romney.
In New Orleans, the mood was calm as the first wave of rain bands and wind gusts rolled ashore, and these battle-tested residents took the storm in stride, knowing they’ve been through a lot worse. Tens of thousands of people, mostly in southeastern Louisiana, were ordered to evacuate ahead of Isaac, which was set to make landfall Tuesday night as a Category 1 hurricane with winds of at least 74 mph -- much lower than the 135 mph winds Katrina packed in 2005.
About 13,000 homes and businesses had already lost power Tuesday afternoon. The storm’s winds increased slightly to 80 mph as it closed in on the coast.
Many residents along the Gulf Coast opted to ride it out in shelters or at home and officials, while sounding
Obama says nation will recover from Isaac, ‘no matter what this storm brings’
AMES, Iowa (AP) -- As Hurricane Isaac neared the Gulf Coast, President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Americans will help each other recover, "no matter what this storm brings."
"When disaster strikes, we’re not Democrats or Republicans first, we are Americans first," Obama said at a campaign rally at Iowa State University. "We’re one family. We help our neighbors in need."
Preparations for the storm have been under way for days, Obama said, vowing that the nation will be prepared for likely flooding and other damage from the hurricane, which was expected to hit Louisiana, possibly the New Orleans area, Tuesday night or early Wednesday.
Obama warned Gulf Coast residents to listen to local authorities and follow their directions.
"Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously," Obama said.
faces huge obstacle
in lack of unity
AZAZ, Syria (AP) -- In the foreign halls of power, the strategy is clear: Syria’s opposition should unite to present an alternative to Bashar Assad’s rule -- a step France’s president says would lead to diplomatic recognition.
As a move toward unity, Syrian exiles from the main opposition Syrian National Council and other groups unveiled a blueprint Tuesday in the German capital of Berlin for transition to a democratic, transparent society free of religious and ethnic favoritism.
But rebels and civilians in the bomb-shattered Syrian town of Azaz near the Turkish border view such talk as hollow. They are deeply skeptical of all exiled leaders and believe what really matters is their fight on the ground to overthrow the regime.
"They have never come up with a united position that will save the people," said Fadi Hajji, 25, who had been camped out along the Syrian border with Turkey with his wife and two infant daughters for five days. "All they are good at is arguing. They don’t represent anyone here and they don’t help."
There was more bloodshed Tuesday as a car bomb ripped through a Damascus suburb, killing 12 people, according to the state news agency. Activists also said an airstrike in the town of Kfar Nabl killed at least 13 people as fighting raged nationwide.
Israeli court rules military not at fault in U.S. activist’s death
HAIFA, Israel (AP) -- An Israeli court on Tuesday cleared the military of wrongdoing in the death of a young American activist who was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer during a protest in the Gaza Strip nearly a decade ago, rejecting claims by her parents that the driver acted recklessly.
The verdict came after a seven-year legal battle waged by the family of Rachel Corrie, whose death remains a powerful symbol on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For pro-Palestinian activists, Corrie has become a rallying cry and vivid image of what they say is Israel’s harsh repression of the Palestinians. In Israel, she is viewed as a tragic, manipulated figure who naively put herself into harm’s way in a fit of idealism.
The family said it was considering an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court but wanted to examine the full verdict before deciding.
Corrie, who was 23, was crushed to death in March 2003 as she tried to block an Israeli military bulldozer in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. The incident occurred at the height of a Palestinian uprising, a time of heavy fighting between the military and Palestinian militants.
Attorney for Md. teen says his client was bullied, did not intend to shoot anyone
PERRY HALL, Md. (AP) -- The attorney for a 15-year-old Maryland boy accused of shooting a classmate on the first day of school says his client did not intend to shoot anyone.
Attorney George Psoras said Tuesday he believes the shotgun Robert Wayne Gladden Jr. was carrying fired accidentally when he was rushed by teachers.
The attorney thinks Gladden brought the gun to Perry Hall High School to intimidate bullies and that Gladden did not aim the weapon at anyone.
Gladden has been charged as an adult with attempted murder and first-degree assault in Monday’s shooting, which critically wounded a 17-year-old classmate. He’s being held without bail.
Officials: 1,700 Yosemite visitors may have been exposed to rodent-borne disease
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- About 1,700 people who stayed in tent cabins at Yosemite National Park this summer were warned Tuesday they may have been exposed to a deadly rodent-borne virus blamed for the deaths of two campers.
Four people who spent time in Signature Tent Cabins at Curry Village around the same time in June have contracted hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, an illness spread by rodent feces, urine and saliva.
One of the people who died was from outside California. The Centers for Disease Control confirmed the death within the past few days. Two other people were infected and expected to survive.
The disease can incubate for up to six weeks before flu-like symptoms develop. It’s fatal in 30 percent of all cases, and there is no specific treatment.
"This is certainly an issue and we’re getting word out," said park spokesman Scott Gediman. "We’re very concerned about visitors and employees, but we feel we are taking proactive steps in both cleaning the affected areas and in public education."
Remote Alaska to stockpile food,
just in case
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) -- Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell says a major earthquake or volcanic eruption could leave the state’s 720,000 residents cut off from supply lines, and he’s taking steps to ensure there’s adequate food.
Parnell says he’s moving forward with plans to build warehouses full of emergency food in Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Construction of the storage facilities will begin this fall. The goal is to have enough food to feed 40,000 people for up to a week.
Alaska’s emergency management director John Madden says Alaska’s readiness is better than it once was, and it continues to improve.
Delivery of food stockpiles would be staggered over three years. Food would be replaced after it’s used or expired.
The project has a budget of around $4 million.
Belgian court lets pedophile’s ex-wife, who allowed 2 girls
to starve, to go free
BRUSSELS (AP) -- A woman who let two 8-year-old girls starve in a cellar and helped her pedophile husband carry out horrific abuse of other girls went from prison to a convent Tuesday, outraging Belgians who opposed the early release of one of the country’s most despised criminals.
The nation’s highest court approved Michelle Martin’s release after serving 16 years of a 30-year prison term for her role in the mid-1990s kidnappings, rapes and killings by her then-husband, Marc Dutroux.
Martin left prison in an unmarked vehicle late Tuesday for a Clarisse convent in Malonne, a 45-mile trip south of the capital, where her lawyer said she will seek atonement for her crimes. Over 100 people shouted insults at her as she arrived, some trying to break through police barriers.
"There is only one word for this. This is simply absurd. But I will have to accept it," said Paul Marchal, whose daughter An, was one of Dutroux’s victims. "Concerning Martin, my fight is over and done. I lost."
Martin’s lawyer, Thierry Moreau, insisted Tuesday that his 52-year-old client deserved a shot at a better life.