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WORLD NEWS BRIEFLY: Obama prefers longer debt extension

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 | 9:03 p.m. CST

Here are today's top stories from The Associated Press.

White House: Obama wouldn't block 3-month GOP debt bill, still prefers longer extension

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration says it won't oppose a House Republican proposal to increase the nation's $16.4 trillion borrowing authority for only three months, even though President Barack Obama last week decried such short-term measures as harmful to the economy.

The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a statement Tuesday saying the GOP measure "introduces unnecessary complications, needlessly perpetuating uncertainty in the nation's fiscal system."

The office also says the administration is encouraged because Republicans have backed off their insistence of one dollar of spending cuts for every dollar of increase in the debt ceiling.

Without congressional action, the Department of the Treasury will not have enough money to pay for all of its obligations sometime in late February or early March. This would create the possibility of a first-ever default on the government's debts.

DA will review internal priest files for evidence top Los Angeles leaders covered up crimes

LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors who have been stymied for years in their attempts to build a criminal conspiracy case against retired Los Angeles Archdiocese Cardinal Roger Mahony and other church leaders said Tuesday they will review newly released internal priest files for additional evidence.

"The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office will review and evaluate all documents as they become available to us," spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said in a brief statement. She declined to comment further.

Thousands of pages from the internal disciplinary files of 14 priests made public Monday show Mahony and other top aides maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church and keep parishioners in the dark.

Some of the documents provide the strongest evidence to date that Mahony and a top aide worked to protect a priest who acknowledged in therapy to raping an 11-year-old boy and abusing up to 17 children, many of them the children of illegal immigrants.

Legal experts who have followed the case, however, said even if the documents contain new proof of conspiracy or obstruction of justice, it will be almost impossible to prosecute because of problems with the statute of limitations. It's also unclear whether prosecutors, who received some documents via subpoena years ago, already have seen some or all of the files made public Monday.

Exit polls: Netanyahu, hard-line allies win narrow majority in Israeli election

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party emerged as the largest faction in a hotly contested parliamentary election on Tuesday, positioning the hard-liner to serve a new term as prime minister, according to exit polls. But a lackluster performance by Likud, along with surprising gains by a centrist newcomer, raised the strong possibility that he will be forced to form a broad coalition.

The exit polls aired on Israel's three major TV stations all forecast Likud, along with its traditional hardline and religious allies, capturing a shaky majority of just 61 or 62 seats in the 120-member parliament. With official results trickling in throughout the night, it was possible that the two sides could end in deadlock.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Netanyahu said he would reach across the aisle and try to form a broad-based coalition.

"According to the exit polls, it is clear that Israeli citizens decided that they want me to continue to serve as prime minister of Israel, and that I form the widest possible majority (coalition)," he said. "Already this evening I will begin working toward the widest possible government."

Such a scenario would have deep implications for Mideast peace prospects. Netanyahu's centrist opponents have said they would not join his government if he does not make a serious push for peace with the Palestinians. Peace talks have been deadlocked throughout Netanyahu's four-year term.

Poll: Most back path to citizenship for illegal immigrants as Republican opposition declines

WASHINGTON — More than 6 in 10 Americans now favor allowing illegal immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens, a major increase in support driven by a turnaround in Republicans' opinions after the 2012 elections.

The finding, in a new Associated Press-GfK poll, comes as the Republican Party seeks to increase its meager support among Latino voters, who turned out in large numbers to help re-elect President Barack Obama in November.

Emboldened by the overwhelming Hispanic backing and by shifting attitudes on immigration, Obama has made overhauling laws about who can legally live in the U.S. a centerpiece of his second-term agenda. In the coming weeks, he's expected to aggressively push for ways to create an eventual pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country.

The poll results suggest that the public overall, not just Hispanics, will back his efforts. Sixty-two percent of Americans now favor providing a way for illegal immigrants in the U.S. to become citizens, an increase from just 50 percent in the summer of 2010, the last time the AP polled on the question.

In an even earlier poll, in 2009, some 47 percent supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Authorities: New Mexico boy accused of killing family reloaded rifles, planned more shootings

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico teenager accused of gunning down five family members over the weekend ambushed his father as he returned home from an overnight shift at a rescue mission, then reloaded his rifles and planned to go to a Wal-Mart and randomly shoot people, authorities said Tuesday.

Instead, 15-year-old Nehemiah Griego, texted a picture of his dead mother to his 12-year-old girlfriend, then spent much of Saturday with the girl and her family, authorities said. That evening, he went to the church where Griego's father had been a pastor, and Griego eventually confessed to killing his parents and three younger siblings.

"The motive, as articulated by the suspect, was purely that he was frustrated with his mother," Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston said. "He did not give any further explanation."

Houston said Griego had planned the shootings for at least a week, but it's unclear if he ever actually went to a Wal-Mart or why he changed his mind about continuing the attack, which occurred the same day thousands of gun advocates gathered peacefully at state capitals around the country to rally against stricter limits on firearms. The "Guns Across America" events were being held just after President Barack Obama unveiled a sweeping package of federal gun-control proposals.

Griego told detectives he also contemplated killing his girlfriend's parents, Houston said.

Algeria scours Sahara desert for 5 missing foreigners as gas plant recovers from terror attack

ALGIERS, Algeria — Algerian forces scoured the Sahara Desert on Tuesday, searching for five foreign energy workers who vanished during a chaotic four-day battle with hostage-taking Islamist militants.

One official says the men may have fled the sprawling complex during the fighting and gotten lost.

The four-day confrontation, that began when al-Qaida-affiliated militants stormed the remote desert natural gas complex and took hostages early Wednesday, was punctuated by exploding cars, attacks from helicopters and a final assault by Algerian special forces.

In all, 37 hostages, including an Algerian security guard, and 29 militants were killed, but five other foreign workers remain unaccounted for.

"Are they dead? Did they attempt to flee the site after the attack like some other expatriates? Are they lost in the desert after taking a wrong turn?" an official who is part of Prime Minister Abdemalek Sellal's office told The Associated Press. "These are all questions we ask ourselves, but one thing is sure, everything is being done to know their fate."

Fight for Mali town shows how al-Qaida melts into population, uses civilians as cover

DIABALY, Mali — Abou Zeid, the shadowy and feared emir of one of al-Qaida's most successful cells, commandeered the packed-dirt home of a family here last week, embedding himself and his hundreds of men in this community of rice growers. He ate spaghetti and powdered milk, read the Quran and planned a war.

His bearded and turbaned men parked cars under the mango trees of the farmers, slept in their bedrooms and turned their courtyards into command centers and their warehouses into armories. And it took eight days before French air strikes finally drove them out of Diabaly, a pinprick of a town, in the first major showdown of the struggle to reclaim Mali's al-Qaida-occupied north.

The tactics used by the Islamist fighters in Diabaly offer a peephole into the kind of insurgency they plan to lead, and suggest the challenges the international community will face in the effort to dislodge them. They show how the Islamists are holding their ground despite a superior French force with sophisticated fighter jets, a fleet of combat helicopters and hundreds of soldiers armed with night vision goggles and 70 mm cannons.

"The only thing that prevented the French planes from annihilating these people is that they were hiding in our homes. The French did everything to avoid civilian casualties," said Gaoussou Kone, a resident of the Berlin neighborhood of Diabaly, where Abou Zeid set up his command center. "That's why it took so long to liberate Diabaly."

Testimony from families, statements by French and local officials and the trash left behind by the fighters — including a handwritten inventory of weapons — provide a sketch of how the Islamists operated. The portrait that emerges is of a determined and nimble band of fighters, who have adapted to the terrain around them and who instinctively understand that France, which unilaterally launched the intervention 12 days ago in their former West African colony, cannot afford to kill civilians.

Russia begins evacuating nationals from Syria as civil war rages

MASNAA, Lebanon — Key Syrian ally Russia began evacuating its citizens from the country on Tuesday as the civil war gathered momentum in the capital Damascus with intense fighting around the international airport.

The evacuation was the strongest sign yet of Moscow's waning confidence in the ability of its ally President Bashar Assad to hold onto power. The U.N. chief said Tuesday that a diplomatic conclusion to the war seems unlikely.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the Russian evacuations indicate "the continued deterioration of the security situation and the violence that Assad is leading against his own people."

Four buses carrying about 80 people, mostly women and children, crossed out of the country over land into neighboring Lebanon in the early afternoon. They were bound for the Lebanese capital Beirut to fly home in two planes that Russia sent. They apparently were not flown directly home out of Damascus because of the fighting around the airport there.

Russia announced the beginning of the evacuations on Monday, saying it would take out 100 nationals. The Russian Foreign Ministry says there are tens of thousands of Russians living in Syria. Many of them are Russian women married to Syrian men.


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