Libyan military spokesman says Libya’s transitional government to declare liberation Sunday
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — A military spokesman says Libya’s transitional government will declare liberation on Sunday after months of bloodshed that culminated in the death of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Officials from the governing National Transitional Council had said the announcement would be made Saturday in the eastern city of Benghazi, the revolution’s birthplace.
But spokesman Abdel-Rahman Busin says preparations are under way for a Sunday ceremony. He didn’t give an explanation for the delay. The declaration will allow Libya’s new rulers to move forward with efforts to transform the oil-rich nation into a democracy.
Libyan authorities are facing questions about how Gadhafi was killed after images emerged showing he was found alive and taunted and beaten by his captors.
Saudi heir to throne Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz dies abroad after illness
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The heir to the Saudi throne, Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz Al Saud, died abroad Saturday after an illness, state TV said. The death of the 85-year-old prince opens questions about the succession in the critical, oil-rich U.S. ally.
Sultan was the half-brother of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, who is two years older than him and has also been ailing and underwent back surgery last week.
The most likely candidate to replace Sultan as Abdullah’s successor is Prince Nayef, the powerful interior minister in charge of internal security forces. After Sultan fell ill, the king gave Nayef — also his half-brother — an implicit nod in 2009 by naming him second deputy prime minister, traditionally the post of the second in line to the throne.
The announcement did not say where outside the kingdom Sultan died or elaborate on his illness but Saudi official circles in Riyadh said he passed away at a hospital in New York. According to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from January 2010, Sultan had been receiving treatment for colon cancer since 2009.
Sultan, who was the kingdom’s deputy prime minister and the minister of defense and aviation, has had a string of health issues. He underwent surgery in New York in February 2009 for an undisclosed illness and spent nearly a year abroad recuperating in the United States and at a palace in Agadir, Morocco.
Obama’s record on Iraq, terror, bin Laden, may do little in next year’s jobs-driven election
WASHINGTON (AP) — By declaring the Iraq war over, President Barack Obama scored what his allies see as a fourth big foreign policy success in six months, starting with Osama bin Laden’s killing. But these events might play a discouragingly small role in his re-election bid, even if they burnish his eventual place in history.
American voters tend to focus heavily on domestic issues, especially in times of high unemployment. That will limit Obama’s campaign options.
His supporters are seeking ways to make the most of his foreign policy accomplishments. One approach is to contrast them with Congress’ partisan-driven gridlock on taxes, the deficit and other domestic issues.
“Look at the progress the president can make when he doesn’t have Republicans obstructing him,” said Karen Finney, a former Democratic spokeswoman who often defends the party on TV and radio.
Former Democratic strategist Rebecca Kirszner Katz distributed a similar remark on Twitter this week: “Terrorists and dictators, lacking the filibuster, have no effective defense against Barack Obama.” It referred to the stalling tactic that Senate Republicans frequently use to kill Democratic bills even though they hold only 47 of the chamber’s 100 seats.
Eurozone finance ministers agree banks should take bigger losses, key to reducing Athens’ debt
BRUSSELS (AP) — Eurozone finance ministers said Saturday that they have agreed that banks should accept substantially bigger losses on their Greek bonds, with a new report suggesting that writedowns of up to 60 percent may be necessary.
The report from Greece’s international debt inspectors, which formed the basis for discussions at the finance ministers’ meeting Friday, says that in order to keep rescue loans from the eurozone to the (euro) 109 billion ($150 billion) foreseen under a second bailout deal tentatively reached in July, Greece’s debt would have to be cut by 60 percent.
Even that would leave the country’s debts still at 110 percent of economic output in 2020.
“Yesterday we agreed that we need a substantial increase in the contribution from the banks,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister who also chairs the meetings of eurozone finance ministers. That means the July deal, under which banks would have taken writedowns on their Greek bondholdings of about 21 percent, is definitively off the table.
Austria’s Finance Minister Maria Fekter told journalists that the eurozone’s chief negotiator Vittorio Grilli had been asked to restart negotiations with banks.
For Herman Cain, stumbles on the presidential trail fuel doubts about his electability
ATLANTA (AP) — Herman Cain is learning the hard way what it means to face the glare of the national spotlight.
After captivating Republicans hungry for an alternative to Mitt Romney, the presidential hopeful has made a series of stumbles that have left some questioning if he’s ready for the White House. The Georgia businessman has been on a media blitz since a rise in the polls catapulted him into the top tier of the race for the Republican party nomination.
But Cain has sometimes appeared to be in over his head. In the last week, he:
—Suggested a fence along the U.S. border with Mexico should be electrified to kill illegal immigrants trying to pass into the United States. Cain later called it a joke and apologized if anyone was offended by the remarks.
—Said he would negotiate for the release of U.S. prisoners held by terrorists, then reversed himself and said he had misunderstood the question.
Congress open to cost-cutting changes in military benefits; veterans groups fight back
WASHINGTON (AP) — The government’s promise of lifetime health care for the military’s men and women is suddenly a little less sacrosanct as Congress looks to slash trillion-dollar-plus deficits.
Republicans and Democrats alike are signaling a willingness — unheard of at the height of two post-Sept. 11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — to make military retirees pay more for coverage. It’s a reflection of Washington’s newfound embrace of fiscal austerity and the Pentagon’s push to cut health care costs that have skyrocketed from $19 billion in 2001 to $53 billion.
The numbers are daunting for a military focused on building and arming an all-volunteer force for war. The Pentagon is providing health care coverage for 3.3 million active duty personnel and their dependents and 5.5 million retirees, eligible dependents and surviving spouses. Retirees outnumber the active duty, 2.3 million to 1.4 million.
Combined with the billions in retirement pay, it’s no surprise that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said personnel costs have put the Pentagon “on an unsustainable course.”
Yet the resistance to health care changes is fierce.
Nevada Republicans scheduled to vote on caucus date change amid call to move to February
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada Republicans are debating whether to bow to national pressure and delay the state’s presidential nomination contest.
More than 200 of the party’s top volunteers and leaders are scheduled to meet Saturday in Las Vegas to decide when Nevada’s caucuses should be held.
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has threatened to hold that state’s primary in early December to avoid wedging it between the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses and Nevada’s Jan. 14 date. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, businessman Herman Cain and several other Republican presidential candidates have pledged their support to New Hampshire and vowed to boycott Nevada’s contest if it isn’t pushed back, prompting the Republican National Committee to suggest that Nevada move to Feb. 4.
Nevada GOP leaders have signaled that they support the change, but it’s unclear whether rank-and-file members will agree. The Nevada Republican Party’s central committee is comprised of a diverse swath of supporters from across the expansive Western state, making for an unpredictable voting body that has refused to heed the GOP’s mainstream leadership time and again.
Nevada Republican Executive Director David Gallagher told The Associated Press on Friday that GOP leaders will commit to whatever decision the rank-and-file makes, even if they choose to keep the Jan. 14 date. They could also vote to return Nevada’s contest to Feb. 18.
Far from placid resorts, Caribbean islands struggling to dismantle trigger-happy drug gangs
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (AP) — When Dudley Williams was a police commander in the mid-1980s, law enforcement in St. Kitts and Nevis was a leisurely occupation. Violent crime was rare on the sleepy specks of land in the eastern Caribbean.
“If fellows got into a heated dispute at a rum bar, things were settled with fists, a piece of stick, a knife at the worst,” said Williams, now 79. “You’d get a shooting once every five years.”
Times have changed here and for many islands across the Caribbean, where an escalating arms race among criminal gangs has turned once-peaceful neighborhoods into battle zones.
St. Kitts and Nevis, a two-island federation of nearly 50,000 people, has tallied 31 homicides so far in 2011, already making it the bloodiest year on record. Police blame gangs with names like Killer Mafia Soldiers and Tek Life for the escalating violence.
Usually far from the view of sunbathing tourists, tit-for-tat shootings by trigger-happy gangsters have become common in the Caribbean, according to a new report on global homicides by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.
92-year-old Pete Seeger and pals attend late-night music march for NY’s Occupy Wall Street
NEW YORK (AP) — Folk music legend Pete Seeger joined in the Occupy Wall Street protest Friday night, replacing his banjo with two canes as he marched with throngs of people in New York City’s tony Upper West Side past banks and shiny department stores.
The 92-year-old Seeger, accompanied by musician-grandson Tao Rodriguez Seeger, composer David Amram, and bluesman Guy Davis, shouted out a verse as the crowd of about 1,000 people sang and chanted.
They marched peacefully over more than 30 blocks from Symphony Space, where the Seegers and other musicians performed, to Columbus Circle. Police watched from the sidelines.
At the circle, Seeger and friends walked to the chant of “We are the 99 percent” and “We are unstoppable, another world is possible.” Seeger stopped to bang a metal statue of an elephant with his cane — to cheers from the crowd.
At the center of the circle, Seeger and Amram were joined by ‘60s folk singer Arlo Guthrie in a round of “We Shall Overcome,” a protest anthem made popular by Seeger.
Few hits, many misses: Big boppers for Cardinals, Rangers try to break loose at World Series
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Nelson Cruz, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton got plenty of hits to put their teams into the World Series.
Now that they’re here, the big-bopping trio has become a virtual zero. A combined 1 for 19, held to a mere single by Cruz.
The rest of the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers haven’t done much better while splitting the first two games.
So far, a total of just eight runs. The last time there were fewer through the opening two games at a Series? Try 1950, when Joe DiMaggio and the New York Yankees combined with Philadelphia for four.
“A lot of people thought this was going to be an offensive World Series,” Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus observed before Friday’s workout.