Posted: Jun 29, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: Jun 30, 2012 4:01 AM
Russia, US struggle to overcome differences at last-ditch Syria talks in Geneva
GENEVA (AP) Russia's determination to preserve its last remaining ally in the Middle East collided head-on with U.S. and other Western powers' desire to replace Syrian President Bashar Assad with a democracy at a pivotal U.N.-brokered conference on Saturday.
Efforts at bridging the Russia-U.S. divide hold the key to international envoy Kofi Annan's plan for easing power from Assad's grip through a political solution that ends 16 months of violence in a country verging on a full-blown civil war, in one of the world's most unstable regions.
Without agreement among the major powers on how to form a transitional government for the country, Assad's regime Iran's closest ally would be emboldened to try to remain in power indefinitely, and that would also complicate the U.S. aim of halting Iran's nuclear goals.
At talks Friday night, top U.S. and Russian diplomats remained deadlocked over the negotiating text to agree on guidelines and principles for "a Syria-led transition." Annan, a former U.N. chief whose efforts to end the Syrian crisis have thus far fallen short, arrived Saturday morning without speaking to reporters.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, arriving at Saturday's conference, urged Russia and China, which is following the Russian lead, to join Western nations in speaking with one voice on Syria, though he acknowledged that will be a stiff challenge.
Egypt's Islamist president-elect to be sworn in before court, but generals' power to remain
CAIRO (AP) Islamist Mohammed Morsi arrived before Egypt's highest court to take the oath of office on Saturday as the country's first freely elected president, succeeding Hosni Mubarak who was ousted 16 months ago.
When sworn in before the Supreme Constitutional Court, Morsi will also be the Arab world's first freely elected Islamist president and Egypt's fifth head of state since the overthrow of the monarchy some 60 years ago.
The court, housed in a Nile-side structure built to resemble an ancient Egyptian temple, stands next door to a military hospital to which Mubarak, 84, was transferred about two weeks ago after suffering a health scare in a nearby prison hospital. He is serving a life sentence for failing to prevent the killing of protesters during last year's uprising.
Hundreds of soldiers and policemen guarded the building as Morsi arrived shortly after 11 a.m. local time (9 a.m. GMT) in a small motorcade. Only several hundred supporters gathered outside the court to cheer the new president and, in a departure from the presidential pomp of the Mubarak years, traffic was only briefly halted to allow his motorcade through on the usually busy road linking the city center with its southern suburbs.
Morsi took a symbolic oath on Friday in Cairo's Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising, before tens of thousands of mostly Islamist supporters.
Democrats divided on pitching health care to voters while court ruling emboldens GOP opponents
WASHINGTON (AP) The constitutional win for President Barack Obama and Democrats on health care overhaul is reopening political cuts within the party over the unpopular law.
Four months to an election with control of Congress in the balance, the Supreme Court's affirmation of the law left several Democrats insisting that the issue was settled and it's time to focus on jump-starting a sluggish economy.
Other Democrats saw the newfound attention as a chance to reset the debate and make a fresh case for the law's more popular elements, especially as 12.8 million Americans start getting health insurance rebate checks in the coming months.
The most vulnerable Democratic incumbents and challengers Montana Sen. Jon Tester and North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp among them cautiously welcomed the court's judgment but argued that the law could be improved.
Even before Obama signed the landmark measure in March 2010, Republicans were unified in opposition and clear in their message: repeal and replace. The White House and divided Democrats have been frustrated in trying to explain and sell the law to a skeptical public in a sharp contrast to the GOP. The court's decision was a reminder of political reality.
Storms leave more than 2M people without power across eastern US; 2 fatalities reported in Va.
Violent evening storms following a day of triple-digit temperatures wiped out power to more than 2 million people across the eastern United States and caused two fatalities in Virginia including a 90-year-old woman asleep in bed when a tree slammed into her home, a police spokeswoman said Saturday.
Widespread power outages were reported from Indiana to New Jersey, with the bulk of the service interruptions concentrated on Washington, D.C., and the surrounding areas. Earlier Friday, the nation's capital reached 104 degrees topping a record of 101 set in 1934.
More than 20 elderly residents at an apartment home in Indianapolis were displaced when the facility lost power due to a downed tree. Most were bused to a Red Cross facility to spend the night, and others who depend on oxygen assistance were given other accommodations, the fire department said.
The storms, sometimes packing 70 mph winds, toppled three tractor trailers on Interstate 75 near Findlay, Ohio. Fallen trees were blamed on both deaths in Springfield, Va. the 90-year-old woman in her home and a man driving a car, Fairfax County police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings said.
In addition, a park police officer was injured by an uprooted tree in the northern Virginia county, and an 18-year-old man was struck by a power line, Jennings said. He was in stable condition after receiving CPR, she said.
Crews sifting through Colo. fire damage find remains of second person; progress made on flames
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) Making slow but steady progress against a wildfire that has killed at least two people, authorities hoped for continued favorable weather and asked for patience from thousands of evacuees who fled encroaching flames that destroyed nearly 350 homes.
A second body was found Friday in the rubble of a home where another person was found dead earlier. Officials, who were searching each charred lot for more possible victims, have not yet released identifications. Police Chief Pete Carey said fewer than 10 people altogether were unaccounted for.
The 26-square-mile blaze one of several wildfires burning across the West was reported to be 25 percent contained - up from 15 percent Thursday.
Evacuation orders were lifted for some of the more than 30,000 people forced from their homes earlier this week, but restrictions remained on neighborhoods with the most damage.
"We're just pleading with people to have some patience while we work through this, this is a very stubborn situation we're dealing with," said Colorado Springs Fire Chief Richard Brown.
Bernard Madoff's brother pleads guilty, saying he was kept in the dark about epic fraud
NEW YORK (AP) In pleading guilty to criminal charges, Peter Madoff portrayed himself as a victim of a domineering older brother who he revered right up until an evening in December 2008 when his sibling revealed that his wildly successful investment business was a sham that lost its customers their nearly $20 billion investment.
"I was in total shock," Madoff said Friday as he described the confession by his older brother, Bernard. "My world was destroyed. I lost everything I worked for."
The 66-year-old Madoff, saying he was "deeply ashamed and terribly sorry," spoke angrily about his 74-year-old brother, who is serving a 150-year prison term after admitting his creation of the largest known Ponzi scheme.
"My family was torn apart as a result of my brother's atrocious conduct," he said. "I was reviled by strangers as well as friends who assumed that I knew about the Ponzi scheme."
He said his brother had made it clear that he would never become a partner in the business where he had worked since 1966, even as he was showered with tens of millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other financial gifts. He made him the investment business's chief compliance officer.
Marathon swimmer Palfrey in attempt at Cuba-Florida record crossing
HAVANA (AP) Marathon swimmer Penny Palfrey stroked across the Straits of Florida early Saturday as she attempted a record 103-mile (166-kilometer) unassisted swim from Cuba to Florida that tests the limits of human endurance.
If the 49-year-old mother and grandmother is successful, she'll go in the record books as the first woman to swim the Straits without the aid of a shark cage. Instead she's relying on equipment that surrounds her with an electrical field to deter the predators in the infested waters.
Early Friday, the British-born Australian bade farewell to onlookers, dove headfirst into the calm, bathwater-warm seas off Havana and began stroking slowly northward with a kayaker as escort.
"There's a lot of work that's gone into this over the past year," Palfrey said, thanking her husband, her team and Cuban officials who helped facilitate the trip. "It's all coming together, and so exciting to finally get to this point where we can get started."
A member of Palfrey's crew was tweeting to fans, while a webpage updated her location every 10 minutes or so based on data from a GPS device worn by the swimmer. The site showed her making steady northward progress through the Straits of Florida, where the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean meet.
Myanmar opposition leader Suu Kyi returns home after triumphant 2-week tour of Europe
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) Cheering crowds welcomed Aung San Suu Kyi home Saturday from her triumphant tour of Europe, where she won enthusiastic support for her role in Myanmar's democratic transition and was celebrated like a head of state.
Thousands of jubilant supporters packed into Yangon's airport and lined the roads outside waving opposition party flags and holding banners, including one that said: "We are proud of you Mother Suu!"
Others were clearly impressed by the honorary doctorate degree she was awarded at Oxford University, shouting: "Long Live Dr. Aung San Suu Kyi!"
The 67-year-old opposition leader smiled and waved as supporters lavished her with floral bouquets and she was escorted into a waiting car, which inched through the crowd on the way to her lakeside villa.
During her two-week trip, Suu Kyi met with political leaders in Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Britain and France.
Custody of 6-year-old Suri, superstar images at stake in Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes divorce
LOS ANGELES (AP) When Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes first got together, he jumped on a couch, she gushed girlishly, and many of their fans said, "Huh?"
Their split could cause just as much drama.
Not only are the images of two Hollywood stars at stake, so is the future of 6-year-old Suri, with some speculating that Holmes' decision to file for divorce in New York might mean she's seeking sole custody of their daughter.
Ultimately, Cruise may have the most to lose.
"There's no question this divorce is going to hurt his public image," said Dorie Clark, author of the forthcoming "Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future."
Yohan Blake shocks Usain Bolt in 100 meters at Jamaican Olympic trials
KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) When the Olympics start, it will be Usain Bolt doing the chasing.
The World's Fastest Man wasn't even the fastest man in Jamaica on Friday night.
Instead, that honor was snatched away by Yohan Blake, the man they call "The Beast," who blew away Bolt out of the starting blocks and finished the 100-meter final in 9.75 seconds to upset the world-record holder by 0.11 seconds in the Jamaican Olympic trials.
How big a shocker? Time will tell. One thing for sure, however, is that the math for the London Olympics has changed dramatically.
"Nine-point-seven-five, it's awesome," Blake said. "I won the world championship, so I've got that. Now, I'm the national champion for Jamaica, so I've got that. And now, I go into the Olympics like this."