Monday February 11, 2013

Paternos challenge Freeh report on scandal, asserting ‘rush to injustice’

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Joe Paterno’s family released its response to Penn State’s report on the Jerry Sandusky scandal Sunday, attacking Louis Freeh’s conclusion that the coach hid sex abuse allegations against his longtime assistant.0

In a report commissioned by the family, former U.S. Attorney General and Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh said the investigation by former FBI director Freeh resulted in a "rush to injustice." That report, authorized by the university, found that Paterno and other school officials accused Paterno and three former administrators of covering up child sexual abuse allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Those findings last July were unsupported by the facts, said the family critique released Sunday.

"The lack of factual report for the ... inaccurate and unfounded findings related to Mr. Paterno, and its numerous process-oriented deficiencies, was a rush to injustice and calls into question the credibility of the entire Report," Thornburgh was quoted as saying in the family’s analysis, posted on the website paterno.com.

Months in the making, the report was billed as an independent analysis of the work by Freeh, who defended his report Sunday.

Sen. Graham threatens to delay Obama’s nominees for defense, CIA because of Libya

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A leading Republican senator said Sunday he would hold up Senate confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominees to head the Pentagon and the CIA until the White House provided more answers about the Sept. 11 attack against a U.S. installation in Benghazi, Libya.

The White House took aim at South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a persistent critic of Obama’s response to the terrorist assault, by urging quick approval of the president’s second-term national security team and scolding any lawmakers trying to "play politics" with critical nominations.

Graham accused the White House of "stonewalling" requests to release more information about the attack that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. "We’re going to get to the bottom of Benghazi," he told CBS’ "Face the Nation."

A Democratic colleague branded Graham’s threat to stall the nominations of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., to be defense secretary and John Brennan, Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, to be CIA director as "unprecedented and unwarranted." Senators should have the chance to vote on the fate of those nominees, said Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island.

The White House did not address Graham’s demand for more information, but did note that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified Thursday before Congress about the chaotic day of the Sept. 11 attack.

Governance by presidential directive is on the move, no Congress required

WASHINGTON (AP) -- This is what "Forward" looks like. Fast forward, even.

President Barack Obama’s campaign slogan is springing to life in a surge of executive directives and agency rule-making that touch many of the affairs of government. They are shaping the cost and quality of health plans, the contents of the school cafeteria, the front lines of future combat, the price of coal. They are the leading edge of Obama’s ambition to take on climate change in ways that may be unachievable in legislation.

Altogether, it’s a kinetic switch from what could have been the watchword of the Obama administration in the closing, politically hypersensitive months of his first term: pause.

Whatever the merits of any particular commandment from the president or his agencies, the perception of a government expanding its reach and hitting business with job-killing mandates was sure to set off fireworks before November.

Since Obama’s re-election, regulations giving force and detail to his health care law have gushed out by the hundreds of pages. To some extent this was inevitable: The law is far-reaching and its most consequential deadlines are fast approaching.

$1 million reward for Dorner as search for fugitive ex-officer continues

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Seeking leads in a massive manhunt, Los Angeles authorities on Sunday put up a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Christopher Dorner, the former Los Angeles police officer suspected in three killings.

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the reward at a news conference at Los Angeles Police Department headquarters.

"Hopefully, the reward will motivate people that may be involved with assisting him or might be reluctant to talk to us to call us and to put an end to this," Sgt. Rudy Lopez said ahead of the announcement.

Meanwhile, authorities said camping gear was found along with weapons inside Dorner’s burned-out pickup truck. The vehicle found Thursday in the ski resort town of Big Bear was so charred that investigators couldn’t be more specific about the nature of its contents, Lopez said.

Also Sunday, police investigated a taunting phone call that may have been made by Dorner to the father of the woman they believe he killed last week. Two law enforcement officers who requested anonymity because of the ongoing investigation told The Associated Press they are trying to determine if the call days after the killing was made by the 33-year-old fugitive or a man posing as him.

Islamists stage surprise attack on key Malian city, engage in combat with gov’t troops

GAO, Mali (AP) -- Black-robed Islamic extremists armed with AK-47 automatic rifles invaded Gao in wooden boats Sunday to launch a surprise attack on the most populous city in northern Mali, two weeks after French and Malian troops ousted the jihadists.

Gunfire echoed for hours across the city of mud-walled buildings. The combat started at about 2 p.m. in downtown Gao and the fighting was continuing as night fell. Later the sound of gunfire was replaced by the clattering of French military helicopters overhead.

The attack in Gao shows the Islamic fighters, many of them well-armed and with combat experience, are determined and daring and it foreshadows a protracted campaign by France and other nations to restore government control in this vast Saharan nation in northwest Africa.

The Islamic radicals fought against the Malian army throughout the afternoon and were seen roaming the narrow streets blanketed in sand and on rooftops in the center of Gao, which had a population of 90,000 before the conflict caused thousands to flee.

Families hid in their homes. One family handed plastic cups of water through the locked iron gate to others hiding on their patio. Piles of onions lay unattended where market women fled when the Islamists arrived. There were no signs of civilian casualties.

Bourbon Street shooting wounds 4 as French Quarter crowd parties ahead of Mardi Gras

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Gunfire wounded four people on New Orleans’ famed Bourbon Street on Saturday night as a costumed crowd partied amid the countdown to Mardi Gras, sending people running, according to police and bystander accounts.

In a video taken by a witness and released by police Sunday, four shots ring out rapidly, followed by screams as some in the crowd stagger into one another and a nearby wall. Police said in an email that an argument involving one of the victims led to the shooting. They described the video as showing two men leaving the argument and returning with a third, then approaching the victim and shooting. A man whom police identified in a statement as one of the perpetrators moves deeper into the crowd and extends his arm as the gunfire erupts.

No arrests were immediately reported, and police said they were seeking three men who fled, including the one seen extending his arm.

The wounded were two males and two females, New Orleans Police spokesman Frank B. Robertson said. One male victim was in guarded condition Sunday with shots to the abdomen, thigh and pelvis, Robertson said. The second male was shot in the buttocks, one female was shot on the chin and right foot, and the second female was shot on the toe, according to Robertson’s statement.

Police had said late Saturday that the most severely wounded man was undergoing surgery while the others were stable. None was identified by age or name.

New U.S. general takes the helm in Afghanistan as foreign forces withdraw

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford took charge of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan on Sunday as the coalition enters its final stretch of the more than 11-year-old war.

The new commander faces daunting challenges, including making sure Afghan government forces are ready to take control and orchestrating the withdrawal of foreign forces during the next 23 months.

Dunford, who will likely be the last commander of the U.S.-led international military coalition, succeeded Marine Gen. John Allen, who oversaw the buildup of governmental security forces and dealt with a series of setbacks --from Qurans burned at a U.S. base to a spike in deadly insider attacks that killed international troops.

"Today is not about change, it’s about continuity," Dunford said during the handover ceremony at the coalition’s headquarters in Kabul. "What’s not changed is the growing capability of our Afghan partners, the Afghan national security forces. What’s not changed is our commitment. More importantly, what’s not changed is the inevitability of our success."

The change in command comes at a critical time for President Barack Obama, who may use Tuesday’s State of the Union address to announce a timetable for pulling out the remaining American combat forces by the end of 2014 and plans for a residual U.S. force post-2014.

5 crewmen die when lifeboat falls from cruise ship in Spain during safety drill

LA PALMA, Canary Islands (AP) -- A lifeboat being used on a safety drill aboard a cruise ship in Spain’s Canary Islands fell about 65 feet (20 meters) into a port on Sunday when a cable snapped, trapping crew members beneath it and killing five of them, officials said.

None of the hundreds of passengers aboard the British-operated vessel were involved in the accident, which also injured three crew members, said the Canary Islands port authority.

Divers raced to the lifeboat, which had hit the water upside down, recovering four bodies and trying without success to revive a fifth crewman who had stopped breathing, the authority said.

Thomson Cruises confirmed the accident and the casualties aboard its Thomson Majesty ship on the island of La Palma, saying the three injured crewmen were not badly hurt.

The ship docked at the island’s port of Santa Cruz in the morning, after arriving there from the neighboring island of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. It was due to depart at 3 p.m. for Funchal on the mid-Atlantic island of Madeira with 1,498 passengers and 594 crew aboard, the authority said.