AP News in Brief at 4:58 a.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on March 27, 2013 at 11:30 AM

Next up for gay marriage: Supreme Court hears challenge to federal Defense of Marriage Act

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the second of back-to-back gay marriage cases, the Supreme Court is turning to a constitutional challenge to the law that prevents legally married gay Americans from collecting federal benefits generally available to straight married couples.

A section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act says marriage may only be a relationship between a man and a woman for purposes of federal law, regardless of state laws that allow same-sex marriage.

Lower federal courts have struck down the measure, and now the justices, in nearly two hours of scheduled argument Wednesday, will consider whether to follow suit.

The DOMA argument follows Tuesday's case over California's ban on same-sex marriage, a case in which the justices indicated they might avoid a major national ruling on whether America's gays and lesbians have a right to marry. Even without a significant ruling, the court appeared headed for a resolution that would mean the resumption of gay and lesbian weddings in California.

Marital status is relevant in more than 1,100 federal laws that include estate taxes, Social Security survivor benefits and health benefits for federal employees. Lawsuits around the country have led four federal district courts and two appeals courts to strike down the law's Section 3, which defines marriage. In 2011, the Obama administration abandoned its defense of the law but continues to enforce it. House Republicans are now defending DOMA in the courts.

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David Petraeus apologizes for affair with biographer that prompted resignation as CIA chief

LOS ANGELES (AP) — In his first public speech since resigning as head of the CIA, David Petraeus apologized for the extramarital affair that "caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters."

The hero of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars struck a somber, apologetic tone as he spoke to about 600 people, including his wife and many uniformed and decorated veterans, at the University of Southern California's annual ROTC dinner on Tuesday.

"I know I can never fully assuage the pain that I inflicted on those closest to me and a number of others," Petraeus said.

Petraeus has remained largely in seclusion since resigning after the extramarital affair with his biographer was disclosed. His lawyer, Robert B. Barnett, has said Petraeus spent much of that time with his family.

Dressed in a dark suit and red tie, Petraeus made motions toward a return to public life as a civilian. He spoke of a need for better treatment for veterans and soldiers, though he stopped short of criticizing current practices.

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Public to get 1st glimpse at police reports from shooting rampage that wounded Giffords

PHOENIX (AP) — Hundreds of pages of police reports in the investigation of the Tucson shooting rampage that wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords are being released Wednesday, marking the public's first glimpse into documents that authorities have kept private since the attack more than two years ago.

The Pima County sheriff's department will release an estimated 2,700 pages of records from the January 2011 shooting at a meet-and-greet event outside a grocery store that killed six people and wounded Giffords and 11 others. The documents include transcribed interviews with witnesses, various police reports and other records, and could provide new insight into how the shooting occurred.

News organizations seeking the records were repeatedly denied the documents in the months after the shooting and the arrest of 24-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, who was sentenced in November to seven consecutive life sentences, plus 140 years, after he pleaded guilty to 19 federal charges.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns had prevented the sheriff's department from releasing the records in response to a request from The Washington Post, ruling in March 2011 that Loughner's right to a fair trial outweighed whatever disclosures might be authorized under state law.

Last month, Burns cleared the way for the release of the records after Star Publishing Company, which publishes the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, had sought their release. The judge said Loughner's fair-trial rights are no longer on the line now that his criminal case has resolved.

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Help wanted: Airspace and business smarts to become 1 of 6 federal sites for drone testing

LOS ANGELES (AP) — It's the land where Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, where the space shuttle fleet rolled off the assembly line and where the first private manned rocketship climbed to space.

Capitalizing on Southern California's aerospace fortunes, two rival groups want to add another laurel: drone test range.

They face crowded competition. In search of an economic boost, more than half the country is looking toward the sky — expected to be buzzing in the near future with pilotless aircraft.

Before that can become reality, the Federal Aviation Administration last month put out a call to test fly drones at half a dozen to-be-determined sites before they can share the same space as commercial jetliners, small aircraft and helicopters.

Fifty teams from 37 states answered, vying to win bragging rights as a hub for unmanned aerial vehicles.

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North Korea to cut military hotline with South Korea that links joint industrial complex

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Wednesday that it had cut off a key military hotline with South Korea that allows cross border travel to a jointly run industrial complex in the North, a move that ratchets up already high tension and possibly jeopardizes the last major symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.

North Korea recently cut a Red Cross hotline with South Korean and another with the U.S.-led U.N. command at the border between the Koreas, but there's still a hotline linking aviation authorities in the North and South.

North Korea's chief delegate to inter-Korean military made the announcement Wednesday in a statement sent to his South Korean counterpart. The hotline is important because the Koreas use it to communicate as hundreds of workers travel back and forth to the Kaesong industrial complex.

South Korean officials say more than 900 South Korean workers were in Kaesong on Wednesday. There was no immediate word about how cutting the communications link would affect their travel back to South Korea.

North Korea, angry over routine U.S.-South Korean drills and recent U.N. sanctions punishing it for its Feb. 12 nuclear test, has unleashed a torrent of threats recently, including vows to launch a nuclear strike against the United States. It has also repeated its nearly two-decade-old threat to reduce Seoul to a "sea of fire."

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In beach-loving Brazil, the disabled defy even paralysis to ride the waves

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — One minute, Renata Glasner is watching the waves crash on Leblon beach from her wheelchair. The next, she's plowing through the turbulent waters, riding the choppy waves on a specially adapted surfboard.

Glasner, a 35-year-old graphic designer who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis four years ago, is one of dozens of disabled people on this special strip of Rio de Janeiro beach who are conquering the waves. Men and women with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, people missing a limb, the blind, the deaf and even the paralyzed all hit the waves here.

They all require a different kind of assistance depending on their disabilities and maneuver their boards in different ways — some standing, some on their knees, others like Glasner flat on their bellies and using their body weight to steer the boards. But every one of them emerges from the ocean beaming.

"The taste of salt water has no price," said Glasner, who began to lose control over her legs shortly after the birth of her first child and now requires a helper to hoist her from her amphibious wheelchair onto the surfboard. "It's the taste of freedom. After you're diagnosed with a disease like mine, you can't even imagine you're ever again going to experience that taste."

Glasner is able to savor that experience on a weekly basis thanks to AdaptSurf, a Rio-based non-governmental organization that aims to make beaches accessible to the disabled and encourage them to practice water sports.

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Study: Claims costs that drive premiums will rise 32 percent in under health law

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new study finds that insurance companies will have to pay out an average of 32 percent more for medical claims under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

What does that mean for you?

It could increase premiums for at least some Americans.

If you are uninsured, or you buy your policy directly from an insurance company, you should pay attention.

But if you have an employer plan, like most workers and their families, odds are you don't have much to worry about.

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Big experiment under way with hard-right Republican seeking victory in swing-voting Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia is conducting nothing short of a grand political experiment in 2013, testing whether a tea party favorite can carry a closely divided state with conservative roots. If Ken Cuccinelli wins the race for governor, he will have undercut Republican moderates' claims that hard-right ideologies are hurting the party — and undoubtedly intensify a debate already roiling the GOP.

Despite its Southern conservative history, Virginia is not Kansas or Oklahoma. President Barack Obama carried it twice after years of Republican dominance, and both U.S. senators are Democrats. Democrats and Republicans have battled fiercely for control of the state Legislature and governorship for years, with Republicans holding the edge lately.

It's hard to find a more 50-50 state where moderate and independent voters loom large in fall general elections.

Cuccinelli, the fiery attorney general running for governor this year, is no garden variety conservative. He once told college leaders they couldn't ban anti-gay discrimination. He advised Catholic clergy to go to jail to protest federal contraceptive coverage mandates. He investigated a former Virginia scientist over his climate change research. All this gave Cuccinelli a national profile few attorneys general attain.

His in-your-face conservatism contrasts with the more measured style of successful Republicans in other toss-up states, including Pat McCrory, North Carolina's first Republican governor in 20 years.

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Ahmadinejad's campaign roadshow seeks ballot space for political heir

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — During a celebration last week to mark the Persian new year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did something quietly remarkable: He stood modestly to the side and let his favored aide have the spotlight.

The gesture was far more than just a rare demure moment from the normally grandstanding leader. It was more carefully scripted stagecraft in Ahmadinejad's longshot efforts to promote the political fortunes of his chief of staff — and in-law — and seek a place for him on the June presidential ballot that will pick Iran's next president.

In the waning months of Ahmadinejad's presidency — weakened by years of internal battles with the ruling clerics — there appears no bigger priority than attempting one last surprise. It's built around rehabilitating the image of Esfandiari Rahim Mashaei and somehow getting him a place among the candidates for the June 14 vote.

To pull it off, Ahmadinejad must do what has eluded him so far: Come out on top in a showdown with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the other guardians of the Islamic Republic. Ahmadinejad has been slapped down hard after bold — but ultimately doomed — attempts in recent years to push the influence of his office on policies and decisions reserved for the ruling clerics.

That has left him limping into the end of his eight-year presidency with many allies either jailed or pushed to the political margins. Mashaei is part of the collateral damage.

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For college basketball coaches, second acts emerge after NCAA show-cause orders

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Few words are less welcome to college basketball coaches than "show cause," shorthand for the NCAA penalty designed to keep those sanctioned for misconduct at one school from quickly jumping to another campus.

Yet an Associated Press review of infractions cases since 2000 found that show-cause orders tend to have a sharply uneven impact.

Of the 44 former men's basketball coaches given show-cause orders since 2000, at least 25 found other basketball jobs, usually after the orders expired. Some remained involved with big-time programs, while others labored in obscurity at junior colleges, high schools or AAU programs. A few have found second acts in the NBA or as TV analysts.

Head coaches hit with show-cause orders tend to fare far better than the assistants deemed complicit in their misdeeds, the AP found.

Take former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl. A three-year, show-cause order in August 2011 for lying to NCAA investigators about improperly hosting recruits at his home didn't keep him from joining ESPN as a college basketball analyst little more than a year later. That was after a stint at Sirius Radio.

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