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Associated Press

Posted on November 7, 2013 at 4:30 AM

Senate poised to pass gay rights bill barring workplace discrimination

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is headed for a historic vote on legislation outlawing workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, demonstrating the nation's quickly evolving attitude toward gay rights nearly two decades after Congress rejected same-sex marriage.

All 55 members of the Democratic majority, including senators from the Deep South, and several Republicans were expected to unite on Thursday in backing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Sen. John McCain, the GOP's presidential nominee in 2008, signaled his conditional support on Wednesday.

Senate passage would be a major victory for gay rights advocates in a momentous year. The Supreme Court in June affirmed gay marriage and granted federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. In the heartland, Illinois is on the verge of becoming the 15th state to legalize gay marriage along with the District of Columbia.

The progress was tempered by the reality that the Republican-led House, where conservatives have a firm grip on the agenda, is unlikely to even vote on the bill. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, maintains his longstanding opposition to the measure, arguing that it is unnecessary and certain to create costly, frivolous lawsuits for businesses. Outside conservative groups have cast the bill as anti-family.

That didn't stop proponents from stepping up the pressure on the eve of the vote.

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Women heading to Navy Riverine combat jobs as military moves to open more positions

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) — Anna Schnatzmeyer's face is taut with concentration as she slowly maneuvers the Riverine assault boat away from the dock, using the complex controls to try and inch the 34-foot craft straight back without sliding sideways.

Her instructor, standing next to her, orders her forward again, and despite the slow, careful creep, the Navy boat knocks into the pier.

It's the first time she's ever piloted a boat. She's in full battle gear and the sun is beating off Mile Hammock Bay on the edge of Camp Lejeune. A stiff wind is tossing waves against the nearby shore. And the pressure is mounting.

By year's end, Schnatzmeyer and five others are expected to become the first women formally assigned to a Riverine combat company, a battlefront Navy job that is just now opening up to women. The three Riverine Delta Company units are used for combat operations, often called on to move quickly into shallow waters where they can insert forces for raids, or conduct rescue missions.

The Delta Company jobs are some of the first combat positions in the military to formally accept women, and breaking through the barriers hasn't been easy. So, here, in this tangle of coastal waterways, Schnatzmeyer and the two other women in the crewman course know all too well that the world is watching.

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10 Things to Know for Today

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

1. GEORGE STRAIT WINS COUNTRY MUSIC'S HIGHEST HONOR

The singer is named CMA entertainer of the year, while Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift take other top awards.

2. TESTS BACK CLAIM THAT ARAFAT WAS POISONED

Swiss scientists say they've found evidence that the Palestinian leader was killed with a radioactive substance.

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US economic growth like slowed in second half of the year, hurt by government policies

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. economic growth is likely languishing in the second half of 2013, held back by federal policies and a slowdown in hiring that has kept consumers from stepping up spending.

Economists are hopeful that the impact from Washington may soon ease, clearing the way for stronger growth next year.

Analysts forecast that the economy grew at a 2 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter, according to a survey by Factset. That would be down from an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the April-June period. Most economists expect growth will stay at the tepid 2 percent rate or weaken slightly in the October-December quarter.

The Commerce Department will release its first estimate for third-quarter growth at 8:30 a.m. EST Thursday. It was delayed one week because of the partial government shutdown.

The American consumer showed little enthusiasm for spending this summer. Higher taxes that took effect earlier this year have lowered take-home pay. And low- and middle-income workers' wages are barely keeping pace with inflation. Consumer spending drives roughly 70 percent of economic activity.

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Thousands move to safety in central Philippines ahead of powerful typhoon

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Thousands of villagers in the central Philippines, including those from a province devastated by a recent earthquake, were being evacuated Thursday as one of the most powerful typhoons globally this year approaches.

Typhoon Haiyan was already packing sustained winds of 215 kilometers (134 miles) per hour and ferocious gusts of 250 kph (155 mph), and could pick up strength over the Pacific Ocean before it slams into the eastern Philippine province of Eastern Samar on Friday, according to government forecasters.

The U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii said it was the strongest tropical cyclone in the world this year, although Cyclone Phailin, which hit eastern India on Oct. 12, packed winds of up to 222 kph (138 mph) and stronger gusts.

Governors and mayors were supervising the evacuation of thousands of residents away from landslide- and flood-prone communities in several provinces where the typhoon is expected to pass, said Eduardo del Rosario, head of the government's main disaster-response agency.

President Benigno Aquino III has ordered officials to aim for zero casualties, a goal often broken in an archipelago lashed by about 20 storms each year, most of them deadly and destructive. Haiyan is the 24th such storm to hit the Philippines this year.

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Twitter ready to start trading on NYSE after setting IPO price at $26 per share

NEW YORK (AP) — Twitter's public stock debut, set for Thursday morning on the New York Stock Exchange, has been carefully orchestrated to avoid the glitches and eventual letdown that surrounded Facebook's initial public offering 18 months ago.

Twitter set a price of $26 per share for its initial public offering on Wednesday evening and will begin trading Thursday under the ticker symbol "TWTR" in the most highly anticipated IPO since its Silicon Valley rival's 2012 debut.

The price values Twitter at more than $18 billion based on its outstanding stock, options and restricted stock expected to be available after the IPO. That's more than Macy's, which has a market capitalization of $17 billion, and Bed Bath & Beyond, which is valued at around $16 billion. Facebook Inc.'s value, meanwhile, stood at $104 billion at the time of its IPO.

Twitter, named after the sound of a chirping bird, got its start 7 years ago, first with Jack Dorsey and then Evan Williams as CEO. Its current chief is Dick Costolo, a former Google executive who once aspired to be a stand-up comedian. On March 21, 2006, Dorsey posted the world's first tweet: "Just setting up my twttr." Noah Glass, who helped create Twitter posted the same words just 10 minutes later.

Since then, the social network that lets users send short messages in 140-character bursts has attracted world leaders, religious icons and celebrities, along with CEOs, businesses and a slew of marketers and self-promoters.

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Soyuz carries Sochi Winter Olympic torch to Intl Space Station ahead of first torch spacewalk

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian spacecraft carrying the Olympic torch and three astronauts has docked with the International Space Station.

Video streamed by the U.S. space agency NASA reported a flawless docking Thursday about six hours after the craft blasted off from Russia's manned space facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The unlit torch for the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi is to be taken on a spacewalk Saturday, then return to Earth on Monday (late Sunday EST) with three departing space station astronauts.

The arriving crew members Thursday were Russia's Mikhail Tyurin, American Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata of Japan.

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Haunted by Lebanon's civil war, former senior militiaman tries to heal his nation's wounds

EIN SAADEH, Lebanon (AP) — With pen and paper in hand, it took Assaad Chaftari five minutes at his home nestled in a cluster of pine trees in the mountains overlooking Beirut to write a public apology for his role in the atrocities committed during Lebanon's civil war.

Thirteen years later, he's still the sole senior figure from the slew of militias that prosecuted that bloody conflict to do so. That Chaftari alone has taken that bold step says as much about his own searing sense of remorse and desire to atone as it does about Lebanon and where it stands more than two decades after the country's 15-year bloodletting claimed the lives of an estimated 150,000 people.

Lebanon has veered toward the edge of communal conflict several times since then, but never more so than now as the civil war in neighboring Syria has inflamed sectarian hatreds. Several rounds of fighting between gunmen of various stripes — Sunni, Shiite, Alawite — have broken out. The latest, which erupted last month in the northern city of Tripoli, killed at least 17 people.

Lebanon's fragility stems in part from how it decided to deal with the wounds of its own war.

There has been no truth and reconciliation commission, like the one South Africa created to deal with the legacy of apartheid. Instead, the Lebanese opted for mass amnesty, deciding to try to forget and move on. A few individuals have attempted to make amends for their actions during the conflict, but none of the former warlords, many of whom are now political bosses and members of parliament, has publicly apologized.

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FBI's 'most wanted' cybercriminals includes developer of spyware to catch cheating lovers

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's not just the federal government intercepting your communications. It could be a nosy relative or jealous partner.

Among the five people added this week to the FBI's list of "most wanted" cybercriminals is a former San Diego college student who developed an $89 program called "Loverspy" or "Email PI." Sold online from his apartment, the program was advertised as a way to "catch a cheating lover" by sending the person an electronic greeting card that, if opened, would install malicious software to capture emails and instant messages, even spy on someone using the victim's own webcam.

The case of Carlos Enrique Perez-Melara, 33, is noteworthy because he appears to have made relatively little money on the scheme, unlike others on the FBI list who were accused of bilking millions of dollars from businesses and Internet users worldwide. But Perez-Melara, a native of El Salvador who was in the United States on a student visa in 2003 when he sold the spyware, allegedly helped turn average computer users into sophisticated hackers who could stalk their victims.

Loverspy was designed "with stealth in mind, claiming that it would be impossible to detect by 99.9 percent of users," according to a July 2005 federal indictment of Perez-Melara.

A section chief with the FBI who oversees operations in the agency's cyber division, John Brown, said Loverspy was one of many illegal "hacking-for-hire" services. In one case earlier this year, a New York police detective was arrested for spending more than $4,000 on hacking services to obtain the emails of more than a dozen of his colleagues. Many of the operators tend to be based overseas.

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CMA Awards, fellow stars salute George Strait with CMA entertainer of the year win

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The entertainer of the year trophy at the Country Music Association Awards is one of the most coveted honors in the genre, but sometimes it's OK to lose — like, say, when George Strait is a nominee.

Strait won his third entertainer of the year award and his first since 1990 Wednesday night against country music's current hitmakers, and no one seemed disappointed. Blake Shelton — one of five performers with a leading two victories — was excited to lose to the 61-year-old whose popularity defies his age.

"That's how it needs to be because he's not just entertainer of the year, he's entertainer of the last three decades, I guess, or four decades," Shelton said. "I don't know who's keeping score. I mean, it's George Strait. He's King George. I couldn't be happier with how this turned out."

Shelton was one of five top winners with two trophies apiece, along with Florida Georgia Line and the trio of Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw and Keith Urban, who won music video and music event of the year for their "Highway Don't Care" collaboration.

Like Strait, Swift also was going for her third entertainer of the year, which would have been a CMA record for a woman. Like Shelton, she couldn't have cared less when she lost, instead hugging Faith Hill as they cried tears of joy for Strait. She noted they've both opened for Strait in their careers and she recounted a story about how Strait and his wife Norma dropped in to one of her first headlining concerts when she was a teenager just to wish her luck.

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