Meridian Star

October 8, 2013

The World in Brief


Associated Press

WORLD —

Did Obama swap controversial 'black' detention sites for warships that sail seas indefinitely?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Instead of sending suspected terrorists to Guantanamo Bay or secret CIA "black" sites for interrogation, the Obama administration is questioning terrorists for as long as it takes aboard U.S. naval vessels.

And it's doing it in a way that preserves the government's ability to ultimately prosecute the suspects in civilian courts.

That's the pattern emerging with the recent capture of Abu Anas al-Libi, one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists, long-sought for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa. He was captured in a raid Saturday and is being held aboard the USS San Antonio, an amphibious warship mainly used to transport troops.

Questioning suspected terrorists aboard U.S. warships in international waters is President Barack Obama's answer to the Bush administration detention policies that candidate Obama promised to end. The strategy also makes good on Obama's pledge to prosecute terrorists in U.S. civilian courts, which many Republicans have argued against. But it also raises questions about using "law of war" powers to circumvent the safeguards of the U.S. criminal justice system.

By holding people in secret prisons, known as black sites, the CIA was able to question them over long periods, using the harshest interrogation tactics, without giving them access to lawyers. Obama came to office without a ready replacement for those secret prisons. The concern was that if a terrorist was sent directly to court, the government might never know what intelligence he had. With the black sites closed and Obama refusing to send more people to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it wasn't obvious where the U.S. would hold people for interrogation.

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Senate Democrats to try passing debt ceiling increase, challenging GOP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats controlling the Senate are planning to try to pass a stand-alone measure to increase the government's borrowing cap, challenging Republicans to a filibuster showdown that could unnerve financial markets as the deadline to a first-ever default on U.S. obligations draws closer.

A spokesman said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could unveil the measure as early as Tuesday, setting the table for a test vote later in the week. The measure is expected to provide enough borrowing room to last beyond next year's election, which means it likely will permit $1 trillion or more in new borrowing above the current $16.7 trillion debt ceiling that the administration says will be hit on Oct. 17.

The development came as a partial shutdown of the government enters its second week with no end in sight.

It's not clear whether Reid's gambit will work. Republicans are expected to oppose the measure if it doesn't contain budget cuts to make a dent in deficits. The question is whether Republicans will filibuster the measure.

Until recently, debt limit increases have not been the target of filibusters; the first in memory came four years ago, when Democrats controlled the Senate with a filibuster-proof 60 votes.

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Supreme Court weighs lifting limits on overall giving by biggest campaign contributors

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is tackling a challenge to limits on contributions by the biggest individual donors to political campaigns.

The case being argued at the high court Tuesday is a test of the Roberts court's readiness to take its most aggressive swipe at campaign finance laws since its Citizens United decision in 2010 took the lid off independent spending by corporations and labor unions.

Supporters of campaign finance laws say the case poses a threat to the contribution limits that Congress first enacted in 1974, in the wake of Watergate abuses.

Republican activist Shaun McCutcheon of Hoover, Ala., the national Republican Party and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky want the court to overturn the overall limits on what contributors may give in a two-year federal election cycle. The total is $123,200, including a separate $48,600 cap on contributions to candidates, for 2013 and 2014.

The limit on individual contributions to any candidate for Congress in any given election, currently $2,600, is not at issue in this case.

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Insurers, others say there's still time to fix online glitches in 'Obamacare'

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government's biggest foray into online commerce has left millions of tech-savvy Americans thoroughly bewildered.

But the insurance industry and others experienced with rolling out new programs say there's still enough time to fix the glitches with President Barack Obama's health care law before uninsured people start getting coverage on Jan. 1.

The online enrollment system at healthcare.gov was down again for upgrades in the wee hours Tuesday. It made its debut just a week ago and technical experts already have been called in to fix problems several times.

Consumers in different parts of the country Monday continued to report delays, as well as problems setting up security questions for their accounts. However, the administration says the site's crowded electronic "waiting room" is thinning out.

Despite the confusion, the insurance industry has held off public criticism. Alarmed that only a trickle of customers got through initially, insurers now say enrollments are starting to come in and they expect things to improve.

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American adults out-performed by many global peers on workplace skills assessment test

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's long been known that America's school kids haven't measured well compared with international peers. Now, there's a new twist: Adults don't either.

In math, reading and problem-solving using technology — all skills considered critical for global competitiveness and economic strength — American adults scored below the international average on a global test, according to results released Tuesday.

Adults in Japan, Canada, Australia, Finland and multiple other countries scored significantly higher than the United States in all three areas on the test. Beyond basic reading and math, respondents were tested on activities such as calculating mileage reimbursement due to a salesman, sorting email and comparing food expiration dates on grocery store tags.

Not only did Americans score poorly compared to many international competitors, the findings reinforced just how large the gap is between the nation's high- and low-skilled workers and how hard it is to move ahead when your parents haven't.

In both reading and math, for example, those with college educated parents did better than those whose parents did not complete high school.

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Taliban shooting survivor describes journey from schoolgirl to activist in 'I Am Malala'

LONDON (AP) — A year ago, Malala Yousafzai was a 15-year-old schoolgirl in northwest Pakistan, thinking about calculus and chemistry, Justin Bieber songs and "Twilight" movies.

Today she's the world-famous survivor of a Taliban assassination attempt, an activist for girls' education — and a contender to win the Nobel Peace Prize later this week.

It's easy to forget she is still a teenager, and now a long way from home.

The memoir "I Am Malala" goes some way toward redressing that balance. Published around the world on Tuesday, the book reveals a girl who likes "Ugly Betty" and the cooking show "Masterchef," worries about her clothes and her hair, but also has an iron determination that comes from experience beyond her 16 years.

The book, written with the British journalist Christina Lamb, recounts Malala's life before and after the moment on Oct. 9, 2012, when a gunman boarded a school bus full of girls in Pakistan's Swat Valley and asked "Who is Malala?" Then he shot her in the head.

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Police ID NJ man who set himself on fire on National Mall; no word on why he did it

WASHINGTON (AP) — The man who set himself on fire on the National Mall and later died was identified Monday, though police had no more information on his possible reasons.

John Constantino, 64, of Mount Laurel, N.J., had burns so severe that authorities needed to use DNA and dental records to identify him. District of Columbia police spokesman Paul Metcalf in an emailed statement confirmed his identity.

Constantino poured the contents of a red canister of gasoline on himself in the center portion of the mall Friday afternoon. He then set himself ablaze, with passing joggers taking off their shirts to help put out the flames. Police had said he was conscious and breathing at the scene.

But he died Friday night at a Washington hospital where he had been airlifted.

Police are investigating the man's possible motives. Lt. Pamela Smith of the U.S. Park Police said she was not aware that he had carried any signs with him or had articulated a cause.

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In Vegas casinos, the eye in the sky watches out for the money, but not always the guests

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Hotel maid Brandi Patrick was chased down the hallway at the Flamingo casino last year by a nearly naked man. She said she had to lock herself in a cleaning closet and, as the man rattled the handle, fumble around in her pockets to find her cellphone so she could call security.

She said she's haunted by the thought of what might have happened if she hadn't had her phone. "Something could happen and no one would know it 'till the end of the shift," she said.

Las Vegas casinos— some of the most closely-watched spaces in the world— don't have video cameras in guest room hallways, an absence that hotel workers like Patrick, patrons and prosecutors say can act as a green light for crime.

Casino bosses say there is no need for extra security: America's playground boasts more cameras per square foot than any airport or sports arena in the country, with thousands of high-tech lenses watching the gambling floors, lobbies and elevators.

All four major Strip casino operators, however, declined further comment.

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Your guide to the 2013 Nobel Prizes: Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Literature, Peace and Econ

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Here's a look at the achievements being honored by this year's Nobel Prizes, the $1.2 million awards handed out since 1901 by committees in Stockholm and Oslo:

NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSIOLOGY OR MEDICINE

The medicine prize, announced Monday in the first of the 2013 awards, honored breakthroughs in understanding how key substances are moved around within a cell. That process happens through vesicles, tiny bubbles that deliver their cargo within a cell to the right place at the right time. Disturbances in the delivery system can lead to neurological diseases, diabetes or immunological disorders. The prize was shared by Americans James E. Rothman of Yale and Randy W. Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley; and German-American Dr. Thomas C. Sudhof, of the Stanford University School of Medicine at Stanford University.

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Dodgers win NL division series 4-3 over Atlanta on Juan Uribe's 2-run homer in 8th inning

LOS ANGELES (AP) — As the celebration raged around them, Sandy Koufax sought out Clayton Kershaw in the hazy mist of the clubhouse for a hug.

Koufax, whose blazing fastball dominated baseball in the mid-1960s, removed the protective goggles from his eyes and rested his arms on Kershaw's broad shoulders.

From the franchise's old left-handed ace to its current young southpaw, a smiling Koufax looked Kershaw in the eyes and bestowed his congratulations. The Dodgers had advanced to their 10th National League championship series with a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Monday night.

"To get a hug and get a 'good job' from a guy like that, from a guy that's been there, from a guy that's done this before and was the best at it for a long time is pretty special," Kershaw said. "He genuinely cares about not only this team but kind of our well-being. He cares about us. That's awesome."

The NL West champions open the next round Friday against St. Louis or Pittsburgh. The Cardinals host the wild-card Pirates in a winner-take-all Game 5 on Wednesday.