Saturday December 22, 2012

Egypt’s Islamists
clash with opponents on eve of divisive constitution vote

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (AP) -- Thousands of Islamists clashed with their opponents on Friday in Egypt’s second largest city, Alexandria, a day before the second leg of voting on a proposed Islamist-backed constitution that has polarized the nation.

Meanwhile, the country’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi made a last-minute move to tighten his grip on power by appointing 90 members to parliament’s upper house, a body set to wield temporary lawmaking powers if the constitution is approved by referendum.

In Alexandria, on the Mediterranean coast, riot police swung batons and fired volleys of tear gas to separate stone-throwing Muslim Brotherhood members and ultraconservative Salafis on one side, and youthful protesters on the other. The clashes started when the two groups met just after Friday afternoon prayers at the city’s main mosque near the coastal road.

Witnesses say youth set fire to four vehicles -- two buses and two cars -- belonging to Islamists, sending thick black smoke through the upscale city center. The demonstrators, some of whom carried black Islamic battle flags, withdrew under a heavy cloud of tear gas some two hours after the clashes began. Fighting continued into dusk along the corniche, near the Medical School and famed Alexandria Library.


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At least 42 people were treated for injuries, with some rushed to the hospital, a city health official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

United Nations: 4 peacekeepers killed in Darfur shooting, investigation ongoing

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Four peacekeepers were killed and one injured in Darfur when one of the peacekeepers serving with the joint U.N.-African Union force opened fire at his fellow peacekeepers, the United Nations said Friday.

Kieran Dwyer, spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping force, said the peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, is investigating the shooting.

He said there were no further details of the so-called "blue-on-blue" incident which took place Thursday at a peacekeeping site in Mukjar in West Darfur. It was unclear whether the peacekeeper who opened fire was alive, dead or injured.

More than 300,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict since rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government nearly 10 years ago, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. Violence has tapered off, but clashes continue.

UNAMID was established in July 2007 and given a key mandate of protecting civilians in Darfur, but it also contributes to security for those providing humanitarian aid, verifying agreements, political reconciliation efforts and promoting human rights. It currently has about 16,500 troops and military observers and over 5,000 international police. Celebrants in Mexico’s Maya heartland mark ‘cosmic dawn,’ not end of world

MERIDA, Mexico (AP) -- Dec. 21 started out as the prophetic day some had believed would usher in the fiery end of the world. By Friday afternoon, it had become more comic than cosmic, the punch line of countless Facebook posts and at least several dozen T-shirts.

At the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, thousands chanted, danced and otherwise frolicked around ceremonial fires and pyramids to mark the conclusion of a vast, 5,125-year cycle in the Mayan calendar.

The doomsayers who had predicted apocalypse were nowhere to be seen. Instead, people showed up in T-shirts reading "The End of the World: I Was There."

Vendors eager to sell their ceramic handicrafts and wooden masks called out to passing visitors, "Buy something before the world ends."

And on Twitter, (hash)EndoftheWorld had become one of the day’s most popular hash tags.

Obama leads farewell to late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye in memorial service

WASHINGTON (AP) -- With reverential words and warm memories, President Barack Obama on Friday led the admirers paying tribute to the late Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, a war hero and senator for 50 years who was hailed for his leadership and modesty. Obama said Inouye was the one who "hinted to me what might be possible in my own life."

"For him freedom and dignity were not abstractions," Obama said at the National Cathedral service. "They were values that he had bled for, ideas he sacrificed for."

Inouye died Monday of respiratory complications. He was 88. Inouye worked until mere minutes before his death, shaking hands with his friends and caressing the hands of his family in those final moments, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the service. Reid said the senator thanked his security detail and the doctors and nurses, and wrote notes detailing his last wishes.

The tributes from the nation’s political leaders were deeply personal. Vice President Joe Biden said he remembered thinking of Inouye: "I wish I could be more like that man. He’s a better man than I am."

Former President Bill Clinton described Inouye as "one of the most remarkable Americans I have ever known."

Israel’s Netanyahu vows to build
in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel’s prime minister has vowed to build in Jerusalem despite criticism from the United Nations, dismissing the international body in particularly strong terms.

"The capital of the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years is Jerusalem," Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel’s Channel 2 television on Friday. "So I will say in the clearest way possible, the Western Wall in not occupied territory and I don’t care what the U.N. will say," he added, referring to the wall Jews consider their holiest place for prayer.

The U.N. last month endorsed a de facto Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, areas Israel won in the 1967 war, but which the world views as occupied territory.

Iowa court: Bosses
have right to fire ‘irresistible’ workers

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- The Iowa Supreme Court says a dentist did not commit gender discrimination when he fired an attractive female assistant he viewed as a threat to his marriage.

The court ruled Friday that a boss can fire an employee he considers an "irresistible attraction," even if the employee has done nothing wrong.

The decision is the first in Iowa, but in line with rulings elsewhere.

Justices rejected a discrimination lawsuit filed by Melissa Nelson, who was fired by Fort Dodge dentist James Knight in 2010.

Nelson had worked in Knight’s office for 10 years. She and Knight eventually started texting outside work about personal matters. Knight’s wife, who also worked at the office, found out and demanded Nelson’s firing.

Knight’s lawyer says the court’s decision is "in favor of family values."

Proposed Russian
ban dismays U.S. adoption groups

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S.-based advocates of international adoption have grown accustomed to bad news in recent years and now have new cause for dismay: a bill moving through Russia’s parliament that would bar Americans from adopting Russian children.

The measure won overwhelming approval Friday in the lower house of parliament. It’s retaliation for a new U.S. law imposing sanctions on Russians deemed to be human rights violators.

The fate of the bill is uncertain. It needs approval by parliament’s upper house and by President Vladimir Putin. Yet already it has added to an array of controversies and policy changes that have muddled the image of international adoption in the U.S.

The number of foreign adoptions has plunged overall in the past eight years, with an especially sharp drop from Russia.

Ala. woman sleeps through tornado ripping off roof

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- An Alabama woman says she fell asleep on the couch watching TV and didn’t notice a tornado that ripped off part of her roof and damaged most of her home.

Betty Russell of Mobile said Friday that she had no idea anything was wrong until firefighters and neighbors came to check on her.

When she walked outside, she saw that huge trees had fallen across the south side of her home, including the bedroom where she normally sleeps.

The 76-year-old has lived in the home for more than 50 years. She says angels protected her. Repairs to the home will have to wait until after she celebrates Christmas with her family.

Friend: Ex-British PM Thatcher in hospital after bladder operation

LONDON (AP) -- Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is recuperating at a hospital after an operation to remove a bladder growth, a friend said Friday.

The 87-year-old Thatcher went to see her doctor after experiencing some discomfort and subsequently had the growth removed, according to longtime adviser Tim Bell.

The operation was "completely satisfactory," Bell said. He said he couldn’t go into detail as to the nature of the growth and declined to name the hospital, saying he did not want it to be inundated with calls.

Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister, has been in fragile health since she suffered a series of small strokes more than a decade ago. Although she has occasionally appeared at private functions, she has not made public statements for some time.

Thatcher was not well enough to join Britain’s queen for a lunch with former and serving prime ministers earlier this year, and two years ago she missed an 85th birthday party thrown for her by Prime Minister David Cameron at his official residence at No. 10 Downing Street. But in October she was well enough to mark her birthday with a lunch out in London with her son Mark and his wife.