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WORLD BRIEFLY: Obama condemns IRS targeting, 'political slideshow' of Benghazi criticism

Monday, May 13, 2013 | 8:39 p.m. CDT

Here are today's top world and national news stories from The Associated Press.

Obama condemns IRS targeting, calls GOP criticism of Benghazi efforts 'political sideshow'

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama tried to swat down a pair of brewing controversies Monday, denouncing as "outrageous" the targeting of conservative political groups by the Internal Revenue Service but angrily denying any administration cover-up after last year's deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

During a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, the normally even-keeled Obama appeared agitated over the resurgent investigation into the September attack at a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi. He dismissed the Republican-driven effort as a "sideshow" that dishonors the four Americans who were killed, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

"There's no there there," Obama declared in his first public comments since GOP lawmakers launched new hearings on the matter. "The fact that this keeps on getting churned up, frankly, has a whole lot to do with political motivations."

Seeking to keep another controversy from spinning out of control, the president rebuked the IRS for scrutinizing the tax-exempt status of groups with conservative titles such as "Tea Party" or "Patriot" in their names. Those responsible, Obama said, must be held "fully accountable."

Philadelphia abortion doctor guilty of murder in deaths of 3 babies, could face execution

PHILADELPHIA — An abortion doctor was convicted Monday of first-degree murder and could face execution in the deaths of three babies who were delivered alive and then killed with scissors at his grimy, "house of horrors" clinic.

In a case that became a grisly flashpoint in the nation's abortion debate, Kermit Gosnell, 72, was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the overdose death of an abortion patient. He was cleared in the death of a fourth baby, who prosecutors say let out a whimper before the doctor cut the spinal cord.

Gosnell, who portrayed himself as an advocate for poor and desperate women in an impoverished West Philadelphia neighborhood, appeared hopeful before the verdict was read and calm afterward.

The jury reached its verdict on its 10th day of deliberations. It will return May 21 to hear evidence on whether Gosnell should get the death penalty.

Gosnell attorney Jack McMahon called it a "very difficult case" to defend and said there was "a little bit of feeling on the defense part of what salmon must feel swimming upstream."

Government subpoenas, obtains wide set of AP phone records in investigation

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news.

The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of calls.

In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.

In a letter of protest sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday, AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt said the government sought and obtained information far beyond anything that could be justified by any specific investigation. He demanded the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies.

OJ Simpson returns to Las Vegas court in bid for new trial in 2008 robbery-kidnap conviction

LAS VEGAS — The shackles and blue prison garb seemed to weigh down O.J. Simpson as he returned to a Las Vegas courtroom on Monday to ask for a new trial in the armed robbery-kidnapping case that sent him to prison in 2008.

Looking grayer and heavier, the 65-year-old former football star and TV pitchman was flanked by guards as he nodded and raised his eyebrows to acknowledge people he recognized in the audience.

A marshal had warned onlookers not to try to communicate with Simpson, and no words were exchanged.

Still, a close friend saw a flash of the old, magnetic Simpson personality.

"Not much muscle tone," observed Sherman White, a former NFL defensive lineman, teammate and friend of Simpson since they both played for the Buffalo Bills. "But you saw a little of the O.J. pizazz when he came in."

Family members recount Honduran police raids where criminals turn up dead, missing

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — At least five times in the last few months, members of a Honduras street gang were killed or went missing just after run-ins with the U.S.-supported national police, The Associated Press has determined, feeding accusations that they were victims of federal death squads.

In March, two mothers discovered the bodies of their sons after the men had called in a panic to say they were surrounded by armed, masked police. The young men, both members of the 18th Street gang, had been shot in the head, their hands bound so tightly the cords cut to the bone.

That was shortly after three members of 18th Street were detained by armed, masked men and taken to a police station. Two men with no criminal history were released, but their friend disappeared without any record of his detention.

A month after the AP reported that an 18th Street gang leader and his girlfriend vanished from police custody, they are still missing.

Deadly car bomb strikes civilian area in eastern Libyan city of Benghazi

TRIPOLI, Libya — A deadly car bomb exploded Monday near a hospital in a busy area packed with civilians in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, destroying part of the facility, officials said.

Officials gave conflicting casualty figures, with death tolls ranging from three to 10 in the chaotic aftermath of the attack.

Benghazi, which was the birthplace of the revolution that led to the ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, has suffered a series of assassinations and other attacks, including the Sept. 11 assaults on the U.S. diplomatic mission that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

The oil-rich North African nation is still largely dominated by militias, many including fighters who battled Gadhafi's forces during the 2011 civil war, and many attacks are blamed on them as infighting is rampant in the battle for control.

But witnesses and analysts said Monday's explosion stood out because it struck during the day in a crowded area, putting civilians at risk.

Retailers embrace reforms in Bangladesh as search for bodies ends; death toll put at 1,127

SAVAR, Bangladesh — Several of the biggest Western retailers embraced a plan that would require them to help pay for factory improvements in Bangladesh as the nearly three-week search for victims of the worst garment-industry disaster in history ended Monday with the death toll at a staggering 1,127.

Bangladesh's government also agreed to allow garment workers to form unions without permission from factory owners. That decision came a day after it announced a plan to raise the minimum wage in the industry.

The collapse of the eight-story Rana Plaza factory building April 24 focused worldwide attention on hazardous conditions in Bangladesh's garment industry, where workers sew low-cost clothing that ends up on store shelves around the globe, including the U.S. and Western Europe.

The tragedy came months after a fire at another garment factory in Bangladesh killed 112 workers.

Swedish retailing giant H&M, the largest purchaser of garments from Bangladesh; British companies Primark and Tesco; C&A; and Inditex, owner of the Zara chain, said they would sign a contract that requires them to conduct independent safety inspections, make reports on factory conditions public and cover the costs of repairs.

New Orleans police say they've made progress in probe of Mother's Day shooting

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans police hope a $10,000 reward and blurry surveillance camera images will lead to arrests in a Mother's Day shooting that wounded 19 people and showed again how far the city has to go to shake a persistent culture of violence that belies the city's festive image.

Angry residents said gun violence — which has flared at two other city celebrations this year — goes hand-in-hand with the city's other deeply rooted problems such as poverty and urban blight. The investigators tasked with solving Sunday's shooting work within an agency that's had its own troubles rebounding from years of corruption while trying to halt violent crime.

"The old people are scared to walk the streets. The children can't even play outside," Ronald Lewis, 61, said Monday as he sat on the front stoop of his house, about a half a block from the shooting site. His window sill has a hole from a bullet that hit it last year. Across the street sits a house marked by bullets he said were fired two weeks ago.

Video released early Monday shows a crowd gathered for a boisterous second-line parade suddenly scattering in all directions, with some falling to the ground. They appear to be running from a man in a white T-shirt and dark pants who turns and runs out of the picture. The image isn't clear, but police say they hope someone will recognize him and notify investigators.

US government files appeal to delay unrestricted sales of morning-after contraceptive pill

NEW YORK — The Obama administration on Monday filed a last-minute appeal to delay the sale of the morning-after contraceptive pill to girls of any age without a prescription.

The legal paperwork asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan to postpone a federal judge's ruling that eliminated age limits on the pill while the government appeals that overall decision.

U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman has said politics was behind efforts by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to block the unrestricted sale of the Plan B One-Step morning-after pill and its generic competitors.

Last month, he ordered that the emergency contraceptives be made available without prescription and without age restrictions. He then denied a request to postpone his ruling while the government appealed but gave it until Monday to appeal again.


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