Posted: Jul 6, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: Jul 7, 2012 4:01 AM
Libyans vote in 1st parliamentary election since Gadhafi's ouster amid fears of violence
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) Libyans started voting on Saturday in the first parliamentary election since last year's ouster and slaying of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, with jubilation at this major step towards democracy after decades of erratic one-man rule tempered by boycott calls and violence in the country's restive east.
The voting for a 200-seat legislature is being held amid intense regional, tribal and ideological rivalries. However, lines began to form outside polling centers more than an hour before they were scheduled to open in the capital Tripoli. Policemen and army soldiers were guarding the centers, searching voters as well as election workers.
"I have a strange but beautiful feeling today," said dentist Adam Thabet, waiting outside a polling center in the capital Tripoli. "We are free at last after years of fear. We knew this day was coming, but we were afraid it could take long to come."
Libya's election is the latest fruit of Arab Spring revolts against authoritarian leaders. It is likely to be dominated by Islamist parties of all shades, a similar outcome to elections held in the country's neighbors Egypt and Tunisia, which had had their own, though much less bloody, uprisings.
There are four major contenders in the race, ranging from a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated party and another Islamist coalition on one end of the spectrum to a secular-minded party led by a Western-educated former rebel prime minister on the other.
US declares Afghanistan major non-NATO ally; Clinton calls the move 'a powerful commitment'
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) The Obama administration on Saturday declared Afghanistan the United States' newest "major non-NATO ally," an action designed to facilitate close defense cooperation after U.S. combat troops withdraw from the country in 2014 and as a political statement of support for Afghanistan's long-term stability.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the announcement shortly after arriving in the country for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"We see this as a powerful commitment to Afghanistan's future," she said at a news conference in the grand courtyard of Kabul's Presidential Palace. "We are not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan."
Clinton insisted that progress was coming incrementally but consistently to the war-torn nation after decades of conflict. "The security situation is more stable," she said. Afghan forces "are improving their capacity."
At the news conference, Karzai welcomed Clinton to Kabul and thanked the U.S. for its continued support.
'A bevy of Romneys': For GOP candidate, politics is an extended family affair
WOLFEBORO, N.H. (AP) Mitt Romney's large family is at the center of his life and of his presidential campaign.
His five sons, five daughters-in-law and 18 grandchildren "a bevy of Romneys," as he dubbed them were front and center on Independence Day as the Republican presidential candidate paraded his family down Main Street in this quaint resort town where the entire clan vacations.
"My family's so big it takes two risers!" Romney exclaimed after he reached the end of the parade route and held a campaign event in a field overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee. As he spoke, he was flanked on two raised platforms by all of his sons and many of the grandchildren.
While a handful of family members sometimes accompany Romney on the campaign trail, the annual family vacation provided a rare opportunity for him to showcase all the members of the group he invokes so often. They now number 30 in all, and his wife, Ann, laments that's it tough to get them in one place at the same time.
At a time when nontraditional families have become more common and when even the Romneys watch "Modern Family," a popular sitcom that centers on unconventional family arrangements the Romney brood stands out. Mitt and Ann Romney have been married for more than 40 years.
Analysis: Republicans hope historical job trends will undo Obama in November
WASHINGTON (AP) History repeats itself, until it doesn't. That musty truism is worth remembering as pundits speculate on whether the lumbering economy will doom the re-election hopes of President Barack Obama, who has shown a knack for beating odds and breaking barriers.
Clearly, some important trends are working against him. The latest evidence is Friday's lackluster jobs report, which found the nation's unemployment rate stuck at 8.2 percent.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the last president to win re-election with so much joblessness. Voters ousted Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush when the jobless rate was well under 8 percent.
And it's not as if Obama can divert the nation's attention from the economy, which has dominated the election from the start. His signature domestic achievement, the 2010 health care overhaul, is a mixed political blessing, uniting Republicans against him. Voters show little interest in how his administration wound down the Iraq war and killed Osama bin Laden.
And yet Obama runs even with, or slightly ahead of, Republican rival Mitt Romney in poll after poll. Campaign strategists debate the reasons.
Triple-digit temperatures extending into the Northeast; could grip Philadelphia and New York
PHILADELPHIA (AP) The heat wave gripping much of the country will continue its hold, with temperatures of 100 degrees or higher spreading to northeastern cities including Philadelphia and New York.
The Midwest, however, will continue to scorch on Saturday, with excessive heat warnings remaining in several states, including Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. In Fort Wayne, Ind., temperatures could reach 106 degrees, but feel more like 114.
Temperatures in Philadelphia and New York have reached the high 90s recently, but haven't crossed 100. Forecasters predict a temperature of 102 degrees in Philadelphia on Saturday and around 100 in New York.
The New York City Health Department is urging residents to take precautions and to check on vulnerable neighbors. The department issued a reminder Friday that serious illness can result from the heat.
California lawmakers approve billions of dollars to start nation's first high-speed rail line
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) California lawmakers gave the green light to start building the nation's first dedicated high-speed rail line, a multibillion dollar project that will eventually link Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The move marked major political victories for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and the Obama administration. Both have promoted bullet trains as job generators and clean transportation alternatives.
In a narrow 21-16 party-line vote that involved intense lobbying by the governor, legislative leaders and labor groups, the state Senate approved the measure marking the launch of California's ambitious bullet train, which has spent years in the planning stages.
"The Legislature took bold action today that gets Californians back to work and puts California out in front once again," Brown said.
Brown pushed for the massive infrastructure project to accommodate expected growth in the nation's most populous state, which now has 37 million people. State and federal officials also said high-speed rail would create jobs.
George Zimmerman, defendant in Trayvon Martin slaying, released on bail under stricter terms
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) George Zimmerman is out of jail again, but the rules have changed since the last time he was released on bail after being charged in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.
When he was freed in April, Zimmerman was allowed to leave Florida his ultimate destination kept secret by his attorneys for his safety. He had a 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and couldn't have any guns, but beyond that Zimmerman enjoyed many of the freedoms of people not facing a murder charge.
Now a judge who believes Zimmerman misled the court about his finances is requiring him to stay in Seminole County. He also must be electronically monitored, can't open a bank account, obtain a passport or set foot on the grounds of the local airport. He has a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
Still, one of Zimmerman's attorneys said his client is "very happy to be out."
"Certainly it's been a sobering experience spending the last month in jail in that kind of environment," Don West, one of Zimmerman's attorneys, told reporters outside the jail Friday.
Military draft panel fiasco highlights gulf between secular Jews and ultra-Orthodox in Israel
JERUSALEM (AP) Deep in the heart of Mea Shearim, a Jerusalem bastion of hardline ultra-Orthodox Jews, hundreds of bearded young men in black suits have their noses burrowed into books, immersed in biblical study and oblivious to their surroundings.
They are the creme de la creme of a cloistered community, the privileged elite who are expected neither to work for a living nor serve in the military with other Israelis. As students at the prestigious Mir Yeshiva, prayer and study of scripture is their full-time job.
These young men, and their sheltered lifestyle, are at the heart of a battle that is tearing Israel apart in a clash between tradition and modernity, religion and democracy. The fight is focused on whether ultra-Orthodox males should be drafted into the military along with other Jews, but it really is about a much deeper issue: What is the place of Judaism in the Jewish state?
The issue has come to the fore as the government races to meet a Supreme Court-ordered deadline to revamp the nation's draft law. In its current form, secular males must perform three years of compulsory service when they turn 18. Ultra-Orthodox men, like the young scholars at the Mir Yeshiva, have special exemptions that allow them to continue studying in their isolated enclaves while collecting government subsidies.
For their supporters, seminary students are preserving a tradition that has served as the very bedrock of Judaism for thousands of years.
Bieber cited for speeding on LA freeway, teen idol points to paparazzi pursuit
LOS ANGELES (AP) Justin Bieber is used to attracting crowds. But he had at least one follower too many when somebody tailed him on a Los Angeles freeway, and it led to a speeding ticket for the teen idol.
The singer of "Boyfriend" and "Baby" was cited for driving in excess of 65 mph at about 10:45 a.m. Friday, after calls came in complaining of a freeway chase on southbound U.S. Highway 101 near Studio City, said Officer Ming Hsu of the California Highway Patrol.
The 18-year-old crooner told officers he was being chased by paparazzi, and investigators confirmed he was being followed by at least one vehicle, Hsu said.
"The second vehicle left the area and there's a search to find that driver," Hsu said.
Hsu did not have a description of the other vehicle.
Ray Allen accepts offer from Heat, decides to leave Celtics after 5 seasons and 1 NBA title
MIAMI (AP) Ray Allen lingered on the court for a bit after his Boston Celtics lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Miami Heat last month, shaking hands and offering congratulations.
A few minutes later, Allen made a vow about his future.
"There's still a lot of basketball left in my legs," he said.
The Heat apparently were listening, apparently agree and will soon officially welcome Allen to their club.
Allen told the Heat on Friday night that he intends to accept their contract offer and leave Boston after five seasons, even though the Celtics could have paid him about twice as much as the reigning NBA champions will be able to next season. Miami could only offer Allen the mini mid-level, worth about $3 million a year.