Posted: Apr 7, 2012 4:01 PM
Updated: Apr 8, 2012 4:02 AM
Syria says it will not withdraw troops from cities without written guarantee from armed groups
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) The Syrian government on Sunday appeared to be backing out of a cease-fire deal aimed at ending the country's crisis, saying that it will not withdraw its troops from cities without written guarantees from armed groups that they also will lay down their weapons.
Last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad accepted a cease-fire agreement brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan calling for government forces to withdraw from towns and villages by Tuesday, and for the regime and rebels to lay down their arms by 6 a.m. Thursday. The truce is meant to pave the way for negotiations between the government and the opposition over Syria's political future.
But in a statement released Sunday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi said that earlier reports that Damascus would pull its troops from cities and their suburbs by Tuesday were "wrong."
Makdessi said that Annan has failed so far to submit to the Syrian government "written guarantees regarding the acceptance of armed terrorist groups to halt violence with all its forms and their readiness to lay down weapons."
He added that Syria will not allow a repeat of what had happened during the Arab League's observer mission in Syria in January, when the regime pulled back its armed forces from cities and their surroundings, only to see rebels flood the areas vacated by government troops.
Afghanistan, US say deal reached on special operations, night raids after long talks
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) The Afghan government and the U.S. have reached a deal governing controversial night raids by American forces, both sides said.
A memorandum of understanding on "Afghanization of special operations on Afghan soil" will be signed later Sunday by Kabul's Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak and the commander of U.S. forces, Gen. John Allen, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Details were not immediately released, but the name of the memorandum suggests that it will apply to a range of quick-strike raids in villages, not just nighttime operations.
A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan confirmed that the agreement would be signed Wednesday but declined to go into details.
"The document will formalize a lot of what we've already been doing as far as special operations," said Col. Gary Kolb. "All the special operations will adhere to the Afghan constitution and comply with Afghan law."
Thousands of Christians celebrate Easter Sunday in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (AP) Thousands of Christians gathered in Jerusalem for Easter Sunday to commemorate Jesus Christ's resurrection, crowding into one of Christianity's holiest churches, worshipping, singing and praying.
Catholics and Protestants took in turns to hold ceremonies within the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built on the site where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried.
Inside, clergymen in flowing white and gold robes celebrated Mass, the air thick with incense plumes. Believers swarmed through the winding church a series of cave-like spaces decked with ornate decorations and stairways leading to galleries and descending into dark, cavernous rooms, joined by a soaring dome roof. Different and often feuding Christian sects control parts of the Sepulcher, heavy with incense, filled with scurrying monks and awed crowds.
Italian Premier Mario Monti, in the church on a private visit, joined the masses of Christian faithful. He shook hands with pilgrims and spoke to monks in the Old City.
Thousands of Palestinian Catholics smashed boiled egg shells against each other, representing Jesus' emerging from his tomb. They ate circular bread symbolizing his crown of thorns. They greeted each other with the Arabic felicitation, "Christ has arisen," prompting the response: "Verily he has arisen."
Union contracts expire for thousands of AT&T workers; strike averted as talks continue
NEW YORK (AP) Union contracts for 40,000 AT&T workers expired at midnight, but a strike was averted as officials said early Sunday that talks were continuing.
Though passage of the deadline left the Communications Workers of America free to call a strike, spokeswoman Candice Johnson says employees would report for work without a contract. But she says that could change at any time.
Four separate contracts in eastern, Midwestern and Western areas covering some 40,000 workers in total expired.
At issue in the negotiations are job protection clauses and health care premiums and co-payments.
The workers are on the shrinking local-phone and long-haul data side of the business.
Spokeswoman says 7 injured in British military helicopter mishap in Arizona desert
EL CENTRO, Calif. (AP) A British Chinook helicopter suffered a "mishap" Saturday during a landing exercise in the Arizona desert, leaving seven people with minor injuries, a military spokeswoman said.
The crew was practicing how to land the aircraft 15 miles northeast of Yuma when "something went wrong," said Michelle Dee, a spokeswoman for Naval Air Facility El Centro in California.
The people aboard the Chinook had non-life-threatening injuries and were sent to the hospital for evaluations as a precaution. Dee said she didn't know how many people were aboard the aircraft or their nationalities.
The helicopter sustained damage but Dee said she didn't know the extent.
The cause of the landing problem was under investigation.
Black community fearful after 5 shot in Tulsa; neighbors say random shootings unusual
TULSA, Okla. (AP) Residents of Tulsa's predominantly black north side said Saturday they're afraid a shooter is still roaming their neighborhoods looking for victims after five people were shot and three killed a day earlier.
"We're all nervous," said Renaldo Works, 52, who was getting his hair cut at the crowded Charlie's Angels Forever Hair Style Shop on Saturday morning. "I've got a 15-year-old, and I'm not going to let him out late. People are scared. We need facts.
"You don't want to be a prisoner in your own home," he said.
Police are still waiting for the results of forensic tests, but investigators think the shootings are linked because they happened around the same time within a 3-mile span, and all five victims were out walking when they were shot. All the victims are black, and community met this weekend in an effort to calm any unrest.
One of the victims told police that the shooter was a white man driving a white pickup truck who stopped to ask for directions before opening fire. Officer Jason Willingham said Saturday that the pickup was spotted in the area of three of the shootings.
Iraq: Video appears to show former top deputy of Saddam Hussein still at large
BAGHDAD (AP) A video posted online Saturday purports to show Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the highest ranking member of Saddam Hussein's ousted regime still at large, lashing out against Iraq's Shiite-led government.
It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the video or determine when it was made.
The man in the video, posted on a website linked to Saddam's now-outlawed Baath party, was introduced as al-Douri and bore a striking physical resemblance to the former Saddam deputy. He noted that nine years had passed since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, suggesting the video was made recently.
Wearing an olive military uniform and eyeglasses, he criticized Iraq's Shiite-dominated government, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and what he said was meddling by neighboring Shiite powerhouse Iran.
"Everyone can hear the sounds of danger echoing daily and threatening this country," he said during the hour-long address, adding that al-Maliki's Dawa Party "has announced Iraq as the Shiite capital, and called on all Arab leaders to surrender to this reality."
Authorities report 1 dead, 3 wounded in shooting at unauthorized Texas Gulf Coast beach party
SURFSIDE BEACH, Texas (AP) Authorities say one person has been killed and three others wounded in a shooting during a packed beach party on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Brazoria County Sheriff Charles Wagner told The Facts newspaper ( http://bit.ly/Hx2mODhttp://bit.ly/Hx2mOD ) that he had no immediate identification of those involved in the shooting at Surfside Beach and no immediate arrests had been made. Wagner says the circumstances were unclear.
The Facts said word of mouth about an unauthorized beach party spread on social media, drawing thousands to Surfside Beach, about 40 miles south of Galveston. Surfside Beach officials told The Facts that the party was not permitted nor authorized.
The Facts quoted a witness as saying the party began peacefully, but fights broke out and there was heavy drinking and also drug use.
Thomas Kinkade: Hugely popular painter built an art empire, but drew critical scorn
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) To fans and the countless collectors who helped build painter Thomas Kinkade's commercial art empire, his idealized vision of the world usually served as a simple, soothing addition to the living room wall: a soft depiction of a churning seascape or a colorful garden or a cottage brimming with warm light.
Kinkade's vision, and the artworks he prolifically created from it, paid off handsomely for the self-described "painter of light," whose business grew into franchised galleries, reproduced artwork and spin-off products said to fetch at their peak some $100 million annually and adorn roughly 10 million homes.
Kinkade, who died Friday of what appeared to be natural causes in Los Gatos, Calif., embraced his popularity even as he drew less than appreciative attention from those within the art establishment who derided him, at least in part, for appealing so brazenly to the widest possible audience.
"In their minds, he represented the lowest type of art," said Jeffrey Vallance, an artist who hosted a show of Kinkade's artwork in Santa Ana, Calif., in 2004. "He was different from other artists. You kind of felt like he was giving people what they wanted."
Kinkade's art empire included reproductions of his numerous paintings in hand-signed lithographs, canvas prints, books and posters, calendars, magazine covers, cards, collector plates and figurines. As his art drew wider and wider attention, Kinkade didn't shy away.
Roars galore: Mickelson makes a charge, Hanson takes the lead at Masters
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) Phil Mickelson set off roars at Augusta National with a 20-foot eagle putt for a share of the lead, and an amazing flop shot behind the 15th green that only he would dare try.
Peter Hanson answered with four birdies on his last five holes, claiming some of those cheers for himself and taking the outright lead Saturday in the Masters with a 7-under 65, the lowest score of the tournament.
What a finish and it's all just beginning.
"Fortune favors the brave at times here," Padraig Harrington said.
"When you're leading a tournament, that's not the type of golf course you want to be on," he added. "You want to be on probably a boring golf course which this ain't."