Posted: Mar 2, 2013 4:00 PM
Updated: Mar 3, 2013 4:00 AM
Kerry takes unity message to Egyptian president, military chiefs, after warning politicians
CAIRO (AP) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was wrapping up a visit to deeply divided Egypt on Sunday with an appeal for unity and reform to the country's president and military chief.
A day after warning the country's bickering politicians that they must overcome differences to get Egypt's faltering economy back on track and maintain its leadership role in the volatile Middle East, Kerry was bringing a similar message to President Mohammed Morsi and his defense minister and intelligence chief. The U.S. is deeply concerned that continued instability in Egypt will have broader consequences in a region already rocked by unrest.
U.S. officials said Kerry will raise Egypt's key regional role with Morsi and his top security aides, stress the importance of upholding its peace agreement with Israel, cracking down on weapons smuggling to extremists in the Gaza Strip and policing the increasingly lawless Sinai Peninsula while continuing to play a positive role in Syria's civil war. Yet, with parliamentary elections approaching, his call for harmonizing domestic Egyptian politics is just as important, they said.
Liberal and secular opponents of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood say they will boycott upcoming elections, and violent clashes between protesters and security forces have created an environment of insecurity, complicating Egyptian efforts to secure vital international aid.
In meetings with Egypt's foreign minister and opposition politicians on Saturday, Kerry said reaching agreement on economic reforms to seal $4.8 billion in International Monetary Fund loans was particularly critical. Closing the IMF deal also will unlock significant U.S. assistance promised by President Barack Obama last year.
Fla. home atop huge sinkhole to be razed after search fails to find man swallowed up by earth
SEFFNER, Fla. (AP) Crews planned to begin demolishing a Florida home Sunday that is perched over a huge sinkhole, deeming it too dangerous to keep searching for the man swallowed into the earth from his bedroom.
The search for Jeff Bush, 37, was called off Saturday. The 20-foot-wide opening of the sinkhole is almost completely covered by the house and rescuers feared it would collapse on them. Two neighboring homes were evacuated as a precaution.
Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said heavy equipment would be brought in to begin razing the home Sunday morning.
"At this point it's really not possible to recover the body," Merrill said, later adding "we're dealing with a very unusual sinkhole."
Jessica Damico, spokeswoman for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, said the demolition equipment would be placed on what they believe is solid ground and reach onto the property to pull apart the house. The crew will try pulling part of the house away from the sinkhole intact so some of the residents' keepsakes can be retrieved.
Philippine Catholics troop to church, pray for smooth rise of strong successor to Benedict
MANILA, Philippines (AP) Filipinos in Asia's largest predominantly Roman Catholic nation on Sunday went to church that awkwardly had no pope for the first time in 600 years and prayed for the smooth rise of a successor to Benedict XVI who can lead an embattled church.
Benedict stunned the world when he announced Feb. 11 he would resign, citing his age and frail health. His resignation, which took effect Thursday, ushered in a period known as "sede vacante" or "vacant see" the transition period between papacies when a few Vatican officials take charge of running the church.
All cardinals worldwide have been summoned to the Vatican for a conclave to elect Benedict's successor, who inherits a church facing a tide of secularism in Europe, as well as clergy sex abuse and corruption scandals that have underscored the need to pick a formidable successor to lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
Churchgoers and the clergy in the Philippines said they were not worried by the temporary absence of a pope but nevertheless felt the vacuum.
"There is something missing more or less in spirit," said the Rev. Joel Sulse, who celebrated mass at the Santuario de San Antonio parish in an upscale residential enclave in Manila's Makati business district. "It's also a challenge. It's like when there is no leader, you really have to stand for your convictions."
Cardinal Dolan of New York gentle enforcer of church teaching and longshot for pope
NEW YORK (AP) Challenging a White House mandate for birth control coverage in health insurance, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan sounded like a general rallying the troops.
"The only thing we're certainly not prepared to do is give in," Dolan said at a national bishops' meeting last November. "We're not violating our consciences."
Weeks earlier, he had appeared in a far less formal setting, at New York's Fordham University with comedian Stephen Colbert. From the 3,000 cheering audience members, one student considering the priesthood asked whether he should date. Dolan said it could help decide the right path, then quipped, "By the way, let me give you the phone numbers of my nieces."
EDITOR'S NOTE: As the Roman Catholic Church prepares to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, The Associated Press is profiling key cardinals seen as "papabili" contenders to the throne. In the secretive world of the Vatican, there is no way to know who is in the running, and history has yielded plenty of surprises. But these are the names that have come up time and again in speculation. Today: Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Automatic spending cuts: Unwanted consequence of a trigger nobody liked or thought would pass
WASHINGTON (AP) It's not the first time that government economic engineering has produced a time bomb with a short fuse.
Back in 2011, few lawmakers, if any, thought deep and indiscriminate spending cuts, totaling about $85 billion and now starting to kick in, were a smart idea.
The across-the-board cuts, set up as a last-resort trigger and based on a mechanism used in the 1980s, are a reality largely because President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, failed to find a way to stop them.
Republicans, influenced by tea party and other conservative factions, insisted on just spending cuts to narrow the deficit. Tax increases were out.
Obama and the Democratic-run Senate didn't budge from a mix of cuts and increased tax revenues.
US Sen. Mitch McConnell fires back at liberal group that criticized ethnicity of his wife
WINCHESTER, Ky. (AP) Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell lambasted a liberal group on Saturday for criticizing the Asian heritage of his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, calling its Twitter messages "racial slurs" and "the ultimate outrage."
"They will not get away with attacking my wife in this campaign," McConnell told about 100 home-state supporters at a Republican dinner in Winchester.
"This woman has the ear of (at)McConnellPress she's his (hash)wife," the group Progress Kentucky tweeted on Feb. 14. "May explain why your job moved to (hash)China!"
McConnell forcefully defended Chao, who was born in Taiwan and who moved to the U.S. as an 8-year-old with her family aboard a freight ship.
"Elaine Chao is just as much an American as any of the rest of them," McConnell said. "In fact, she had to go through a lot more to become an American."
5 police, 2 assailants killed in latest violence with suspected Filipino gunmen in Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) Gunmen ambushed and killed five Malaysian policemen as fears mounted that armed intruders from the southern Philippines had slipped into at least three coastal districts on Borneo island, officials said Sunday.
Two of the attackers were also fatally shot Saturday night, escalating tensions in eastern Sabah state, where Malaysia's biggest security crisis in recent years began after about 200 members of a Philippine Muslim royal clan occupied a village last month to claim the territory as their own.
Security forces clashed with the clan members in the coastal area of Lahad Datu on Friday, leaving 12 Filipinos and two Malaysian police commandos dead.
The remaining clan members have refused to budge, while concerns have grown that other groups from the Philippines' restive southern provinces might enter Sabah, which shares a long and porous sea border with the Philippines that's difficult to patrol.
A police team was attacked late Saturday while inspecting a settlement in Semporna town, more than 150 kilometers (90 miles) from Lahad Datu, said national police chief Ismail Omar. Authorities were searching the area for more of the assailants.
China's Xi rides high hopes ahead of presidency, but will he be able to deliver?
LUOTUOWAN VILLAGE, China (AP) China's fawning state media, jaded social media commentators and even poor corn and cabbage farmers agree: New Communist Party chief Xi Jinping is off to a good start.
"General Secretary Xi doesn't put on any airs. He talks like an ordinary person," said 69-year-old farmer Tang Rongbin. The new leader visited Tang's sparse, dimly lit farmhouse in Luotuowan village in December, bearing gifts of cooking oil, flour and a blanket.
Xi has styled himself as an economic reformer, an iron-fisted graft-buster, a staunch nationalist and a no-frills man-of-the-people spurring expectations for change. But as he prepares to be appointed to the largely ceremonial role of president, pressure will be growing on him to deliver.
China faces rising public anger over endemic corruption, a burgeoning rich-poor gap and the degradation of the country's air, soil and waterways. Slower economic growth and territorial disputes, especially with Japan, add to the tension.
Mounting protests over environmental issues, land seizures and high-handed officialdom point to the underlying social discontent. Days before the party conclave that brought Xi to power last year, thousands of protesters in the eastern city of Ningbo faced off against riot police outside government offices, calling on officials to halt a chemical plant expansion.
At CITES, UN environment chief calls for hard clampdown on illegal wildlife trade
BANGKOK (AP) The head of the United Nations environment agency is calling on the international community to clamp down hard on the world's illegal wildlife trade, calling it a lucrative criminal business that is threatening to wipe out some of the planet's most iconic species.
Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, made the call Sunday during the opening meeting of the 178-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, in Bangkok.
Steiner says the recent, massive upsurge in poaching of endangered African elephants and rhinos should be "a wake-up call for all of us."
Steiner says the illicit trade in protected wildlife species is a billion-dollar business that is comparable to that of illegal narcotics and arms.
Young couple headed to hospital to have 1st child die in NY car crash; baby delivered alive
NEW YORK (AP) A young Jewish Orthodox couple en route to a hospital to have their first child were killed in a car crash early Sunday, but their child survived.
Nathan and Raizy Glauber, both 21, were using a car service to go to the hospital when another vehicle crashed into the side of theirs at an intersection in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, said Hasidic community activist Isaac Abraham. Nathan Glauber was pronounced dead at Beth Israel Hospital, while his wife died at Bellevue, police said.
The couple's son was delivered at the scene and was taken to a hospital in serious condition, said Abraham, who is also a neighbor of Raizy Glauber's parents and lives two blocks from the scene of the crash.
The driver of the vehicle that hit the couple's car fled, police said. No arrests have yet been made.
The condition of the car service's driver is unclear, police said.