Posted: Jul 15, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: Jul 15, 2012 10:00 PM
Red Cross declares Syrian conflict to be a civil war; UN investigates assault on farm village
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) Syria's 16-month bloodbath crossed an important symbolic threshold Sunday as the international Red Cross formally declared the conflict a civil war, a status with implications for potential war crimes prosecutions.
The Red Cross statement came as United Nations observers gathered new details on what happened in a village where dozens were reported killed in a regime assault. After a second visit to Tremseh on Sunday, the team said Syrian troops went door-to-door in the small farming community, checking residents' IDs and then killing some and taking others away.
According to the U.N., the attack appeared to target army defectors and activists.
"Pools of blood and brain matter were observed in a number of homes," a U.N. statement said.
Syria denied U.N. claims that government forces had used heavy weapons such as tanks, artillery and helicopters during the attack Thursday.
State media: Powerful North Korean army chief relieved of posts because of illness
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Kim Jong Un's top military official a key mentor to North Korea's young new leader who had served under his father has been removed from all posts because of illness, state media said Monday.
But Ri Yong Ho had looked healthy in recent appearances, and that fed speculation among analysts that Kim purged him in an effort to put his own mark on the regime he inherited seven months ago when Kim Jong Il died.
The decision to dismiss the 69-year-old from top military and political posts was made at a Workers' Party meeting Sunday, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. It was not immediately clear who would take Ri's place, and the dispatch did not elaborate on his condition or future.
Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea analyst at the International Crisis Group, was skeptical of the illness claim, in part because of Ri's recent apparent health. He also said Ri won his major promotions at a September 2010 party conference but received none in April, which stirred speculation about the general's future.
"There's a very high probability that it wasn't health issues, but that he was purged," he said, sending a strong signal to anyone seeking to challenge Kim Jong Un even if Ri never directly defied the new leader.
Microsoft ends online marriage with NBC to pursue building its own online news service
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Microsoft is pulling out of the joint venture that owned MSNBC.com, freeing the world's largest software maker to build its own online news service.
The breakup announced late Sunday dissolves the final shreds of a 16-year marriage between Microsoft Corp. and NBC News, which is now owned by Comcast Corp. The relationship began to unwind in 2005 when Microsoft sold its stake in MSNBC's cable TV channel to NBC.
NBC is buying Microsoft's 50 percent interest in the MSNBC website for an undisclosed amount. MSNBC.com will be rebranded as NBCNews.com, and readers who logged into MSNBC.com late Sunday were automatically redirected to NBCNews.com.
The website will move its headquarters from Microsoft's corporate campus in Redmond, Wash., to NBC News' longtime home in New York.
The online divorce stemmed from the two partners' desire to gain greater control over their digital destinies as the Internet becomes an increasingly important part of their businesses.
As Clinton urges dialogue, Egypt's military chief takes tough stance on Brotherhood
CAIRO (AP) The head of Egypt's military took a tough line Sunday on the Muslim Brotherhood, warning that he won't let the fundamentalist group dominate the country, only hours after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged him to work with Egypt's elected Islamist leaders.
Clinton's visit to Egypt underscored the difficulty Washington faces in trying to wield its influence amid the country's stormy post-Hosni Mubarak power struggles. Protesters chanting against the U.S. sometimes reaching several hundred sprung up at several sites Clinton visited this weekend. On Sunday, protesters threw tomatoes, water bottles and shoes at her motorcade as she left a ceremony marking the opening of a new U.S. consulate in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
Islamist Mohammed Morsi, a longtime Brotherhood figure, was sworn two weeks ago as Egypt's first democratically elected president. Led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the military handed over power to him June 30 after ruling Egypt for 16 months. The military, however, dissolved the Brotherhood-led parliament and stripped Morsi of significant authorities in the days before his inauguration, while retaining overwhelming powers for itself, including legislative power and control of the writing of a new constitution.
The United States is in a difficult spot when it comes to dealing with post-Mubarak Egypt eager to be seen as a champion of democracy and human rights after three decades of close ties with the ousted leader despite his abysmal record in advancing either.
This has involved some uncomfortable changes, including occasional criticism of America's longtime faithful partners in Egypt's military as it grabs more power and words of support for Islamist parties far more skeptical of U.S. intentions in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East.
Obama clings to some advantages from 2008 while reaching for new ways to offset faded assets
WASHINGTON (AP) Four months from Election Day, President Barack Obama has an edge in support among women, African-Americans, Hispanics and young people, groups that could swing the race in November.
He retains the power of incumbency and people generally like him.
But there are indications that Obama's supporters aren't as enthusiastic about him as they once were, and the Democrat no longer is in a fundraising league of his own, with Republican Mitt Romney and GOP-leaning groups raking in the campaign cash.
Plus, the shaky economy, which crashed in fall of 2008 and helped Obama capture the presidency, is a huge vulnerability. Come November, it could trump all his other advantages.
A look at Obama's assets and liabilities:
GOP hopeful Mitt Romney faces summer of hurdles and opportunities in fight to unseat Obama
WASHINGTON (AP) As the White House challenger, Mitt Romney can seize on the attention that accompanies the selection of a running mate. When the London Olympics get under way, he can use that spotlight to play up his leadership of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
His candidacy also is benefiting from the fundraising power of outside GOP-aligned political groups that are spending millions on TV ads to promote him and undercut President Barack Obama. The weak economic recovery offers the chance for Romney to make inroads among unhappy voters.
Not all is rosy, however, for the former Massachusetts governor.
Health care is the last thing Romney wants to talk about. As he appeals to independent voters, he has to fend off charges that by moving to the middle, he's changing core positions for political purposes.
Cities weigh controversial but inventive way to fix mortgages: condemn them
FONTANA, Calif. (AP) In the foreclosure-battered inland stretches of California, local government officials desperate for change are weighing a controversial but inventive way to fix troubled mortgages: Condemn them.
Officials from San Bernardino County and two of its cities have formed a local agency to consider the plan. But investors who stand to lose money on their mortgage investments have been quick to register their displeasure.
Discussion of the idea is taking place in one of the epicenters of the housing crisis, a working-class region east of Los Angeles where housing prices have plummeted. Last week brought another sharp reminder of the crisis when the 210,000-strong city of San Bernardino, struggling after shrunken home prices walloped local tax revenues, announced it would seek bankruptcy protection.
Now and amid skepticism on many fronts officials from the surrounding county of San Bernardino and cities of Fontana and Ontario have created a joint powers authority to consider what role local governments could take to stem the crisis. The goal is to keep homeowners saddled by large mortgage payments from losing their homes which are now valued at a fraction of what they were once worth.
"We just have too much pain and misery in this county to call off a public discussion like this," said David Wert, a county spokesman.
LA sheriff: Man recovers prized sports car stolen in 1970 after spotting it on eBay
LOS ANGELES (AP) A Texas man whose prized sports car was stolen 42 years ago recovered the vehicle in California after spotting it on eBay, authorities said Sunday.
Robert Russell told the Los Angeles County sheriff's officials that he had never given up searching for the 1967 Austin-Healey after it was stolen from his Philadelphia home in 1970.
The 66-year-old retired sales manager from Southlake told the Dallas Morning News (http://dallasne.ws/ML2fBq ) he paid a friend $3000 for the car. It had sentimental value to him because it was stolen the morning after he took his future wife out on their second date.
Russell said he spent years surfing the Internet looking for the car and didn't have much hope of finding it.
"The fact that the car still exists is improbable," he said. "It could have been junked or wrecked."
Speed dating on the farm: 'Weed dating' allows singles to meet while getting their hands dirty
BOISE, Idaho (AP) For one night a year, a neighborhood farm in northwest Boise turns into a respite for singles who are tired of the same old dating scene.
A poster board planted at the entrance of Earthly Delights Farm in late June advertised "Weed Dating," with a heart-stamped arrow guiding visitors to a sign-in table, where they were each assigned a number and invited to sample beer provided by a local brewer.
The farm is among a handful across the country offering an unconventional form of speed dating. Typically, speed daters meet at a bar or restaurant and switch conversational partners every few minutes, in hopes of finding someone compatible. With weed dating, this rapid-fire courtship takes place on the farm, with singles working together in the fields.
The payoff for their toil? A chance at romance.
Joe Peraino, 27, met his previous girlfriend while weed dating at the Boise farm last year. They were together for nine months and found that few others couples could top their account of how they met, said Peraino, who has since relocated to South Carolina.
NY Knicks' Jason Kidd arrested on drunken-driving charge; police say he crashed into pole
Jason Kidd mentoring Jeremy Lin was a nice story last week.
Then Kidd was arrested on a drunken-driving charge, Lin's departure from New York for a "ridiculous contract" in Houston became more realistic, and a position of strength suddenly was one of turbulence for the Knicks.
Kidd's arrest came within hours of the Knicks agreeing to a trade for fellow point guard Raymond Felton, raising the possibility they will refuse to match Lin's offer sheet with the Rockets.
Police said Kidd crashed his SUV into a telephone pole in the Hamptons on Sunday, days after signing with the Knicks.
Treated at a hospital for minor injuries after the crash, Kidd was arraigned on a misdemeanor driving-while-intoxicated charge and released without bail, Southampton Town police said.