With military deadline looming, Egypt braces for showdown after president vows to stay on
CAIRO (AP) With a military deadline for a resolution to Egypt's political crisis looming, the country braced for a showdown Wednesday after embattled President Mohammed Morsi insisted he will not step down in the face of demands by millions of protesters, vowing to protect his "constitutional legitimacy" with his life.
On the streets, the sense that both sides are ready to fight to the end sharpened, with overnight clashes between supporters of the Islamist president and opponents that left at least 23 dead, most of them in a single incident of fighting outside Cairo University.
The violence came just hours before a deadline set by the military was to expire Wednesday for Morsi to find a solution with the opposition or the army would impose its own political plan. The draft would see the military suspend the constitution, disband parliament and install a new leadership.
With his political fate hanging in the balance, Morsi demanded in a speech late Tuesday that the powerful armed forces withdraw their ultimatum, saying he rejected all "dictates" from home or abroad.
In an emotional address aired live to the nation, the Islamist leader who a year ago was inaugurated as Egypt's first freely elected president accused loyalists of his ousted autocratic predecessor Hosni Mubarak of exploiting the wave of protests to topple his regime and thwart democracy.
Bolivian president's plane leaves Vienna after it was diverted amid Snowden rumors
PARIS (AP) The plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales has taken off from Vienna's airport after it was rerouted there amid suggestions NSA leaker Edward Snowden might be on board.
Bolivian and Austrian officials both say Snowden was not on Morales' plane, which left Moscow on Tuesday following a summit. Morales had suggested that his government would be willing to consider granting asylum to the American. Snowden is believed to be in a Moscow airport transit area, seeking asylum from one of more than a dozen countries.
The plane left from Vienna shortly before noon Wednesday.
Obama administration delays central element of health care law until after 2014 elections
WASHINGTON (AP) President Barack Obama's health care law, hailed as his most significant legislative achievement, seems to be losing much of its sweep.
On Tuesday, the administration unexpectedly announced a one-year delay, until after the 2014 elections, in a central requirement of the law that medium and large companies provide coverage for their workers or face fines.
Separately, opposition in the states from Republican governors and legislators has steadily undermined a Medicaid expansion that had been expected to provide coverage to some 15 million low-income people.
Tuesday's move which caught administration allies and adversaries by surprise sacrificed timely implementation of Obama's signature legislation but might help Democrats politically by blunting an election-year line of attack Republicans were planning to use. The employer requirements are among the most complex parts of the health care law, designed to expand coverage for uninsured Americans.
"We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively," Treasury Assistant Secretary Mark Mazur said in a blog post. "We have listened to your feedback and we are taking action."
Investigators examining Arizona blaze that killed 19 firefighters looking at what went wrong
PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) Three days after 19 firefighters perished in a wildfire, questions over what exactly went wrong loomed largest.
Investigators from across the U.S. will be working this week to try to answer that, examining radio logs, the site of the tragedy, and weather reports. They'll also surely be talking to the sole survivor of the blaze, who warned his fellow firefighters and friends when he saw the wildfire switch directions and head straight for them.
In the nation's biggest loss of firefighters since 9/11, violent wind gusts on Sunday turned what was believed to be a relatively manageable lightning-ignited forest fire in the town of Yarnell into a death trap that left no escape for the team of Hotshots, most of them in the prime of their lives.
Only one member of the crew, identified Tuesday as 21-year-old Brendan McDonough, survived; he was on a hilltop serving as a lookout and warned his crew that the weather was changing rapidly, and that the fire had changed directions because of strong, erratic winds. McDonough made it to safety, while the rest were overtaken by the blaze.
"He did exactly what he was supposed to," said Wade Ward, who implored the media to respect McDonough's privacy as he and the families mourn. "He's trying to deal with the same things that we're all trying to deal with, but you can understand how that's compounded being there on the scene."
Obama administration leery of saving chaotic nations from themselves in Mideast
WASHINGTON (AP) From Egypt to Syria to Iraq and beyond, the Obama administration is determined to show it will only go so far to help save nations in chaos from themselves.
President Barack Obama has long made it clear that he favors a foreign policy of consultation and negotiation, but not intervention, in the persistent and mostly violent upheavals across the Mideast. And he appears determined not to deviate this week even to help reverse turbulence in Egypt, one of the United States' most important Arab allies.
U.S. officials say the Obama administration delivered pointed warnings Tuesday to three main players in the latest crisis to grip Egypt as hundreds of thousands of protesters flooded Tahrir Square in Cairo to demand President Mohammed Morsi's ouster over his hard-line Islamist policies. The powerful Egyptian military appeared poised to overthrow him.
The administration stopped short of demanding that Morsi take specific steps, the officials said, and instead offered strong suggestions that are backed by billions of dollars in U.S. aid to ease the tensions.
The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the delicate diplomacy that is aimed at soothing the unrest and protecting Egypt's status as a bulwark of Mideast stability. Yet the warnings were unlikely to placate the protesters gathered at the site of Egypt's Arab Spring revolution two years ago, many of whom have accused the U.S. of siding with Morsi.
US drone strike kills 16 suspected militants in northwest Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) Unmanned U.S. aircraft fired four missiles at a house in northwest Pakistan before dawn Wednesday, killing 16 suspected militants, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
The drone strike elicited a swift condemnation by the Pakistani government, which released a statement saying the strikes are a violation of its sovereignty.
The attack in the Sarai Darpa Khel area of the North Waziristan tribal region also wounded two suspected militants, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The suspected militants who were targeted were believed to be from the Afghan Haqqani network. U.S. officials consider the Haqqani network to be one of the most dangerous militant factions fighting American troops in neighboring Afghanistan. The leadership of the Haqqani network pledges allegiance to Taliban chief Mullah Omar but operates fairly independently.
U.S. drone strikes have become a serious source of tension between Washington and Islamabad. The Pakistani government regularly denounces the strikes as a violation of the country's sovereignty, even though senior officials are known to have supported some of the attacks in the past.
Packing a picnic for this year's Fourth of July? That'll be $6 per person, group's survey says
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) How much does it cost to pack a picnic this Fourth of July? That'll be $6 per person.
That's according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which launched an informal price survey this year looking at the cost of hot dogs, cheeseburgers and other Independence Day fare.
A typical summertime picnic averages $57.20 for 10 people, or $5.72 per person, according to the group, which puts out a similar estimate for Thanksgiving.
"Five dollars a person for a special event cookout is affordable for most people," said John Anderson, chief deputy economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation. "We certainly know that there are people who struggle with affording food and other necessities, but in general, we're blessed with very affordable food in this country."
Sixty volunteer shoppers in 22 states checked retail prices for summer picnic foods for the American Farm Bureau Federation's survey.
Judge to hear arguments over past school records in George Zimmerman's murder trial
SANFORD, Fla. (AP) The judge in the George Zimmerman murder trial will hear arguments from attorneys about whether to allow evidence about a college criminal justice course he took that included course work on Florida's self-defense law.
Judge Debra Nelson is hearing the arguments from attorneys Wednesday morning outside the jury's presence.
The prosecution said the school records will show that Zimmerman had knowledge of the law, though the neighborhood watch volunteer maintained in an interview with Fox News last year that he didn't. The interview was played for the jury Tuesday.
Prosecutors also are seeking to introduce a job application Zimmerman made to a police agency in Virginia in 2009 and an application to ride around with Sanford police officers in 2010.
Defense attorneys believe the items are irrelevant and will be asking the judge to disallow them. He referred to the prosecution's efforts to introduce them as "a witch hunt."
Annulment of Guatemala conviction shines light on indigenous community
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) Life for the indigenous Ixil Mayans in the mountains west of Guatemala City is worn and static like an old photograph.
Seventeen years after the end of a civil war that saw hundreds of their villages razed and thousands of their loved ones killed, the Ixil people still live in mud-and-wood houses in the most rugged and isolated parts of northwestern Guatemala. Most of them have no drinking water, paved roads or basic services such as health and education.
Largely ignored by authorities for centuries, the Ixil came under the spotlight after a Guatemalan court found former dictator Efrain Rios Montt guilty of genocide on May 10 for the scorched-earth policies used against the Ixil during his 17 months in power in the 1980s.
The conviction was annulled 10 days later following a trial that did nothing to change their lives of the Ixil people.
Byron Garcia, a social anthropologist who has worked in the area for a decade, said Ixil Mayans live in the same poverty as always.
Bailey throws 2nd no-hitter in 10 months 1st in majors this year as Reds beat Giants 3-0
CINCINNATI (AP) Homer Bailey fretted for a moment as first baseman Joey Votto reached to pluck the ball out of the air for the final out. What next? Raise both arms in celebration.
Bailey has this no-hitter celebration down pat just like his idol, Nolan Ryan.
Another hard-throwin' Texan who wears No. 34 made some no-hit history Tuesday night. Bailey threw his second in 10 months and led the Cincinnati Reds' infield celebration with arms raised after a 3-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants.
There was a bit of been-there, done-that in the humid night air.
"It's something I've already done, so I knew what to expect," Bailey said of his easy-as-could-be step into rare territory.