Posted: Jun 2, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: Jun 3, 2012 4:01 AM
Syria president denies role in Houla massacre, calls it an 'ugly crime'
BEIRUT (AP) Syrian President Bashar Assad denied Sunday that his government had anything to do with last week's gruesome Houla massacre, saying not even "monsters" would carry out such an ugly crime.
In a televised speech to parliament, Assad said his country is facing a "real war" and he blamed terrorists and extremists for the bloodshed. He expressed horror over last week's massacre in the central Houla region, which killed more than 100 people, nearly half of them children.
"If we don't feel the pain the pain that squeezes our hearts, as I felt it, for the cruel scenes especially the children then we are not human beings," Assad said in his first comments on the massacre. His last public address was in January.
Assad, 46, denies that there is a popular will behind the uprising, saying foreign extremists and terrorists are driving the revolt.
His remarks suggest he is still standing his ground, despite widespread international condemnation over his deadly crackdown on dissent. Although his words reflected many of the same general points of his previous speeches blaming terrorists and extremists, vowing to protect national security his comments on Houla were widely anticipated.
Doctors use 'smart bomb' drug to attack breast cancer; women live longer with disease in check
CHICAGO (AP) Doctors have successfully dropped the first "smart bomb" on breast cancer, using a drug to deliver a toxic payload to tumor cells while leaving healthy ones alone.
In a key test involving nearly 1,000 women with very advanced disease, the experimental treatment extended by several months the time women lived without their cancer getting worse, doctors planned to report Sunday at a cancer conference in Chicago.
More importantly, the treatment seems likely to improve survival; it will take more time to know for sure. After two years, 65 percent of women who received it were still alive versus 47 percent of those in a comparison group given two standard cancer drugs.
That margin fell just short of the very strict criteria researchers set for stopping the study and declaring the new treatment a winner, and they hope the benefit becomes more clear with time. In fact, so many women on the new treatment are still alive that researchers cannot yet determine average survival for the group.
"The absolute difference is greater than one year in how long these people live," said the study's leader, Dr. Kimberly Blackwell of Duke University. "This is a major step forward."
1,000 boats taking to Thames for river pageant marking Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee
LONDON (AP) More than 1,000 boats were to sail down the River Thames on Sunday in a flotilla tribute to Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years on the throne that organizers are calling the biggest gathering on the river for 350 years.
Despite cool, drizzly weather, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to line the riverbanks between Hammersmith and Tower Bridge in London, feting the British monarch whose longevity has given her the status of the nation's favorite grandmother.
The queen and members of her family will lead the river pageant aboard a flower-bedecked royal barge, accompanied by skiffs, barges, narrowboats, motor launches, row boats and sailing vessels from around the world.
"We in Britain are experts at not letting the weather spoil our fun," said Adrian Evans, pageant master for Sunday's flotilla. "The London Philharmonic Orchestra will be playing 'Singin' In The Rain' as they travel down the river, and the crowd can sing along with them."
Hundreds of people ignored the persistent rain and camped out overnight to secure prime riverside spots.
Seeking to outmaneuver China, US tries not to cause waves with 'Pacific Pivot' in a wary Asia
SINGAPORE (AP) As the United States moves to bolster its military position in Asia, it faces severe budget cuts from Congress, an increasingly powerful rival in China and a hornet's nest of regional political sensitivities.
The shift in U.S. policy puts Asia and the Pacific front-and-center of its strategic priorities and is driven by concerns that China has raced ahead in the world's most economically dynamic region while the U.S. was tied up fighting its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in a region rife with disputes and increasingly beholden to China's economic engine, the Pentagon is being careful its "pivot to the Pacific" doesn't create too many waves.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is spearheading the U.S. effort to sell the new strategy in Asia, told regional defense leaders at a major security conference in Singapore that it is only natural for the Asia-Pacific to be in the spotlight because it is home to some of the world's biggest populations and militaries.
Before moving on to Vietnam and India, Panetta said Washington will "of necessity" rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region and vowed 60 percent of the Navy's fleet will be deployed to the Pacific by 2020. He said the U.S. presence will be more agile, flexible and high-tech. Troops may increase overall, but no major influx is expected.
Long-term allies such as Japan, Australia and South Korea strongly support a robust U.S. presence and see the shift as a welcome development.
Olympic torch starts 5-day tour of Northern Ireland to excitement, cheers and no IRA trouble
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) The Olympic torch began its five-day tour of Northern Ireland with plenty of excitement and no signs of trouble Sunday as the territory's Protestants and Catholics vowed to show the world how united the community has become after four decades of conflict.
Police warned of extra security to deter any of the region's small Irish Republican Army factions still trying to undermine a broadly successful peace process with guns and bombs from trying to disrupt the event.
But the Olympic torch proceeded from Belfast's Titanic Quarter to the prosperous belt of towns along the County Down coast with no unusual security evident. Just as during its first two weeks on British soil in England and Wales, the crowds were free to stand beside the passing torchbearer, who was flanked by four to six tracksuit-clad security staff jogging alongside.
Between stops, a Northern Ireland police motorcycle unit used to protecting VIPs sped ahead to block roads and ensure the torch convoy of more than a dozen vehicles carrying support staff and media stuck to its ambitious schedule to reach every corner of this province of 1.7 million by Thursday.
Sinn Fein, the Irish nationalist party that long supported IRA attacks but today helps govern Northern Ireland alongside its British Protestant majority, said all of Ireland was excited to see the symbol of the 2012 London Games arrive. The flame will cross the border Wednesday into the Republic of Ireland to tour Dublin, a special concession to demonstrate today's exceptionally strong British-Irish relations and cooperation between the two governments on the island of Ireland.
Trayvon Martin shooting: Neighborhood watch volunteer ordered to surrender after bond revoked
SANFORD, Fla. (AP) A neighborhood watch volunteer charged with second-degree murder in the Florida shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin faced a court order to turn himself Sunday.
A judge revoked bond for George Zimmerman on Friday and ordered he be returned to jail by Sunday afternoon. That step came after prosecutors argued that Zimmerman and his wife had lied to the court about their finances to obtain the bond.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder charge. He maintains he shot Martin in self-defense under Florida's so-called "stand your ground" law because the teen was beating him up after confronting Zimmerman about following him in a gated community outside Orlando.
Zimmerman's credibility could become an issue at trial, legal experts said, noting the case hinges on jurors believing Zimmerman's account of what happened the night in February that Martin was killed.
Zimmerman wasn't charged in the case until more than a month after the shooting. Protests were held across the nation, and the case spurred debate about whether race was a factor in Zimmerman's actions and in the initial police handling of the case. Martin was black; Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is from Peru.
Foresters see massive blaze in southwestern New Mexico as test for fire management
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) From the air, the smoke from a massive wildfire stretches as far as the eye can see, spreading across the rugged country in southwestern New Mexico where the nation's wilderness movement was born nearly a century ago.
On the ground, firefighters talk about the steep canyons that keep them from directly attacking what has become the largest blaze in New Mexico's recorded history and the largest currently burning in the country.
Things might look bad. But to land managers and scientists, the record-setting blaze represents a true test of decades of work aimed at returning fire to its natural role on the landscape a test that comes as many Western states grapple with overgrown forests, worsening drought and a growing prospect for more megafires.
The Whitewater-Baldy fire has destroyed a dozen cabins while marching across more than 356 square miles of the Gila National Forest. A pair of lightning-sparked fires grew together to form the massive blaze.
Unlike last year's megafires in New Mexico and Arizona, this blaze is burning in territory that has been frequently blackened under the watchful eye of the Gila's fire managers.
Police: Shooting in busy Canada shopping mall kills 1, injures 7
TORONTO (AP) A gunman fired shots in a crowded food court in one of Canada's busiest malls Saturday killing a man and injuring seven others, police said.
Police Chief Bill Blair said the shooting at Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto targeted one individual and there were a number of innocent bystanders. Police constable Victor Kwong said two people were in critical condition after being shot at the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto, including a 13-year old boy. The 25-year-old man who was killed died at the scene, he said.
Kwong said six people were shot in all, including the deceased. Two people were trampled on and pushed, including a pregnant woman who went into labor after she was pushed, he said.
Blair said investigators have a description of the suspect.
"A lot of innocent people were hurt and a lot of innocent people were put at risk," Blair said. "We will be relentless in our pursuit of the individual."
Vice President Joe Biden's daughter, a social worker, gets married in Del. to Pa. doctor
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) Vice President Joe Biden's daughter Ashley married a Pennsylvania doctor at a ceremony in Delaware, the vice president's office announced late Saturday.
A news release from Biden's office says 30-year-old Ashley Blazer Biden was married Saturday to Dr. Howard David Krein in Wilmington.
She is a social worker for the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families. He is a New Jersey native and a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, according to The News-Journal of Wilmington.
The newspaper reported that the couple was exchanging vows at the same church where she was baptized, St. Joseph on the Brandywine, in a joint Jewish-Catholic ceremony. It was being followed by a reception at the Biden residence in Greenville. The guest list numbered about 200.
Vice President Biden and his wife Jill issued a statement saying the couple's close family and friends attended the private ceremony.
Kevin Durant's big 4th quarter powers Thunder past Spurs 109-103, tying West finals 2-2
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) When Lil Wayne turned down Kevin Durant's invitation to watch the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, he missed quite a show by the three-time scoring champion.
Durant scored 18 of his 36 points in a scintillating final 7 minutes, Serge Ibaka added a career-high 26 points and the Thunder evened the series at two games apiece by beating the San Antonio Spurs 109-103 Saturday night.
After seeing his team's 15-point lead dwindle to four, Durant took over midway through the fourth quarter by scoring all 16 of the Thunder's points during a span of just over 5 minutes to keep the Spurs at bay.
"I didn't tell myself that I need to go score because what we were doing was working," Durant said.
"We were passing the ball and guys were making shots. ... I just wanted to stick with what we were doing, but it started to open up for me and I could see some lanes that gave me some opportunities to make some shots."