Friday March 1, 2013

Obama to urge court to overturn gay marriage ban

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage and take a skeptical view of similar bans across the country.

That’s according to person familiar with the administration’s friend-of-the-court filing in the California case.

The administration argues that denying gays and lesbians the right to marry violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

The brief also contends that discrimination based on sexual orientation requires extra scrutiny by the court.

The brief will be filed later Thursday, the deadline for in the case.

The person familiar with the brief spoke on anonymity in order to discuss the document before it was filed.

Soldier admits leaking secrets to website, says
he wanted to expose
U.S. ‘bloodlust’

FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) -- Bradley Manning, the Army private arrested in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history, offered to plead guilty Thursday to charges that could send him to prison for 20 years, saying he spilled the secrets to expose the American military’s "bloodlust" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was the first time Manning directly admitted leaking the material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and detailed the frustrations that led him to do it.


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Sitting before a military judge, the slightly built 25-year-old soldier from Oklahoma read from a 35-page statement through his wire-rimmed glasses for more than an hour. He spoke quickly and evenly, showing little emotion even when he described how troubled he was by what he had seen.

"I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information ... this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general," Manning said.

A military judge, Col. Denise Lind, is weighing whether to accept Manning’s guilty plea to reduced charges on 10 counts.

Lawmakers push measure on Israel’s self-defense

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States would back Israel militarily if the Mideast ally were to attack Iran in self-defense, a bipartisan group of senators said Thursday in introducing a forceful resolution.

"No one wants another conflict anywhere in the world militarily, but we also don’t want a nuclear-capable Iran," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at a news conference.

The resolution also strongly endorses unilateral penalties against Iran. The measure comes as world powers met in Kazakhstan and proposed concessions to Tehran to maintain diplomatic channels that aim to rein in Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran insists that program is geared toward peaceful purposes such as generating electricity and producing nuclear medical radioisotopes for medical use.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said he hopes for real progress toward a negotiated solution, but "we will not talk for talking sake."

The resolution says that if Israel is "compelled to take military action in self-defense, the United States government should stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military and economic support to the government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people and existence."

It says that nothing in the measure should be considered an authorization for the use of military force or a declaration of war.

"This is not a green light to Israel to do anything other than defend itself. ... We will be there," Graham said.

Joining Menendez and Graham were Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Susan Collins, R-Maine, John Hoeven, R-N.D., Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

The group hopes to pass the resolution before President Barack Obama’s expected trip to Israel in March.

Speedometers often show far higher top speeds than cars can travel

DETROIT (AP) -- The speedometer on the Toyota Yaris says the tiny car can go 140 miles per hour.

In reality, the bulbous subcompact’s 106-horsepower engine and automatic transmission can’t push it any faster than 109.

So why do the Yaris -- and most other cars sold in the U.S. -- have speedometers that show top speeds they can’t possibly reach?

The answer has deep roots in an American culture that loves the rush of driving fast. The automakers’ marketing departments are happy to give people the illusion that their family car can travel at speeds rivaling a NASCAR racer. And companies often use one speedometer type in various models across the world, saving them money.

But critics say the ever-higher numbers are misleading. Some warn they create a safety concern, daring drivers to push past freeway speed limits that are 65 to 75 mph in most states.

Dreams deferred: The life and death of a veterinarian-turned-rebel fighter in Syria

BEIRUT (AP) -- Abdullah Qadi stood apart from his fellow rebel fighters -- an educated young man from a poor farming town who managed to make it through veterinary school.

He was fresh out of school in March 2011, when Syria’s uprising began and erased his career plans of treating animals and someday becoming a professor.

As the violence deepened into a civil war, Qadi worked as a medic but later took up arms when his brother was killed, becoming a field commander.

Qadi was leading fighters into battle against the government forces when I met him on two occasions last year, a 25-year-old who was swept up in events he didn’t quite understand and didn’t expect to survive.

"I try to ask myself where I’ll be after the revolution, and I can’t imagine myself anywhere but in the grave," Qadi told me the last time I saw him in person.

French forces to remain in Mali until at least July

PARIS (AP) -- French troops will stay in the West African country of Mali at least until July, amid tougher-than-expected resistance from Islamic fighters, officials have told The Associated Press, despite earlier government promises to begin a quick pullout within weeks.

France’s leadership has painted the intervention against al-Qaida-backed radicals in Mali, which began in January, as a swift and limited one, and said that France could start withdrawing its 4,000 troops in Mali in March and hand over security duties to an African force.

But the combat in rugged Sahara Desert mountains is growing harder, and there’s a rising threat that the militants will turn to suicide bombings, hostage-taking and other guerrilla tactics.

One French diplomat acknowledged this week that a French military presence is expected to remain for at least six months. Two other French officials told The Associated Press that the French will remain at least until July, when France is hoping that Mali can hold elections.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the military campaign. Juror dismissed in Bell, Calif, corruption case; deliberations to begin anew with alternate

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A weeping juror was dismissed Thursday for committing misconduct during deliberations in the public corruption trial of six former officials of the suburban city of Bell.

The woman juror admitted she looked up information online and had her daughter search out a definition of what would constitute coercion by other jurors.

Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy scheduled an afternoon hearing to select an alternate juror to join the panel so that deliberations could begin anew.

The defendants are charged with misappropriation of public funds for giving themselves huge salaries and nearly bankrupting the tiny suburb of Los Angeles.

The jury had been in its fifth day of deliberations after a three-week trial.