Syrian opposition makes new push to unite; 85 soldiers including general defect to Turkey
CAIRO (AP) — The Arab League chief urged exiled Syrian opposition figures to unite at a meeting Monday as a new Western effort to force President Bashar Assad from power faltered. Another 85 soldiers, including a general, fled to Turkey in a growing wave of defections.
Turkey's state-run Andolou news agency said the group of defectors also included 14 other officers, ranging from one colonel to seven captains. It is one of the largest groups of Syrian army defectors to cross into Turkey since the uprising against Assad began.
The stakes are high for calming the crisis in Syria, which NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Monday called "one of the gravest security challenges the world faces today."
But more than one year into the Syrian revolt, the opposition is still hobbled by the infighting and fractiousness that have prevented the movement from gaining the kind of political traction it needs to present a credible alternative to Assad.
"There is an opportunity before the conference of Syrian opposition today that must be seized, and I say and repeat that this opportunity must not be wasted under any circumstance," Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby told nearly 250 members of the Syrian opposition at the opening of the two-day conference in Cairo.
After the storm, nearly 1.8 million utility customers ask: Why aren't the lights back on yet?
WASHINGTON (AP) — From North Carolina to New Jersey, nearly 1.8 million people still without electricity were asking the same question Monday evening: Why will it take so long to get the lights back on?
Nearly three full days after a severe summer storm lashed the East Coast, utilities warned that many neighborhoods could remain in the dark for much of the week, if not beyond.
Friday's storm arrived with little warning and knocked out power to 3 million homes and businesses, so utility companies have had to wait days for extra crews traveling from as far away as Quebec and Oklahoma. And the toppled trees and power lines often entangled broken equipment in debris that must be removed before workers can even get started.
Adding to the urgency of the repairs are the sick and elderly, who are especially vulnerable without air conditioning in the sweltering triple-digit heat. Many sought refuge in hotels or basements.
Officials feared the death toll, already at 22, could climb because of the heat and widespread use of generators, which emit fumes that can be dangerous in enclosed spaces.
Fatal crash of Air Force plane grounds key part of firefighting fleet amid shortage of planes
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The deadly crash of a military cargo plane fighting a South Dakota wildfire forced officials to ground seven other Air Force air tankers, removing critical firefighting aircraft from the skies during one of the busiest and most destructive wildfire seasons ever to hit the West.
The C-130 from an Air National Guard wing based in Charlotte, N.C., was carrying a crew of six and fighting a 6.5-square-mile blaze in the Black Hills of South Dakota when it crashed Sunday, killing at least one crew member and injuring others.
President Barack Obama offered thoughts and prayers to the crew and their families. "The men and women battling these terrible fires across the West put their lives on the line every day for their fellow Americans," he said in a statement.
The crash cut the number of large air tankers fighting this summer's outbreak of wildfires by one-third.
The military put the remaining seven C-130s on an "operational hold," keeping them on the ground indefinitely. That left 14 federally contracted heavy tankers in use until investigators gain a better understanding of what caused the crash.
At summer lull, Romney hopes to quiet outsourcing talk as Obama prays for more jobs and donors
WASHINGTON (AP) — The presidential race is entering the sultry summer, a final lull before the sprint to Election Day, with President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney neck and neck and no sign that either can break away.
As both candidates take a breather this week — Romney at his lakeside compound in New Hampshire and Obama at the Camp David presidential retreat — each sees problems he'd like to cure before Labor Day.
Obama and his allied groups aren't keeping pace with Romney and the Republican fundraising machine, and that places more pressure on the president to solicit huge sums himself. And the Supreme Court ruling that saved Obama's signature health care initiative last week didn't change the fact that most Americans don't like the law.
Romney's fundraising is impressive. But, in a sign of his hurdles, he's spending heavily in North Carolina, a state he almost certainly must win to have a chance at the White House. And some voters in key states appear uncomfortable with his record at a corporate restructuring firm before he became Massachusetts governor.
National polls suggest that Obama holds a small, perhaps meaningless lead as he awaits a new jobs report Friday that could bring bad news similar to last month's. Romney is offering few details of his own health and economic proposals for now, perhaps thinking outside forces will dislodge the president.
Egypt's new Islamist president portrays himself as simple man as he claims revolution's mantle
CAIRO (AP) — Standing before tens of thousands of adoring supporters in Tahrir Square, President Mohammed Morsi opened his jacket in a show of bravado to prove he was not wearing a bullet-proof vest. The message was clear: He has nothing to fear because he sees himself as the legitimate representative of Egypt's uprising.
In the week since he was named president, Morsi has portrayed himself as a simple man, uninterested in the trappings of power and refusing to take up residence in the presidential palace
His speeches reveal a populist bent, filled with generous promises many are skeptical he can keep. And although he began as an awkward and uninspiring speaker, Morsi appears to be striving to reinvent his uncharismatic public persona.
After eking out a narrow victory in last month's runoff, Morsi has claimed the mantle of the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak last year.
But his Muslim Brotherhood did not join the uprising until it had gained irreversible momentum. And its critics say the Islamic fundamentalist group has hijacked the movement that was led by secular and liberal youths, and abandoned demonstrators during deadly clashes with security forces in the months that followed Mubarak's February 2011 ouster.
GlaxoSmithKline to pay $3 billion in largest health care fraud settlement in US history
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline will pay $3 billion in fines — the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history — for criminal and civil violations involving 10 drugs that are taken by millions of people.
The Justice Department said Monday that GlaxoSmithKline PLC will plead guilty to promoting popular antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin for unapproved uses. The company also will plead guilty to failing to report to the government for seven years some safety problems with diabetes drug Avandia, which was restricted in the U.S. and banned in Europe after it was found in 2007 to sharply increase the risks of heart attacks and congestive heart failure.
In addition to the fine, Glaxo agreed to resolve civil liability for promoting Paxil, Wellbutrin, asthma drug Advair and two lesser-known drugs for unapproved uses. The company also resolved accusations that it overcharged the government-funded Medicaid program for some drugs, and that it paid kickbacks to doctors to prescribe several drugs including Flovent for asthma and Valtrex for genital herpes.
Sir Andrew Witty, Glaxo's CEO, expressed regret Monday and said the company has learned "from the mistakes that were made."
This is the latest in a string of settlements related to drug companies putting profits ahead of patients. In recent years, the government has cracked down on drugmakers' tactics, which include marketing medicines for unapproved uses. While doctors are allowed to prescribe medicines for any use, drugmakers cannot promote them in any way that is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The less-highlighted part of the US drawdown in Afghanistan: fewer advisers and trainers
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (AP) — For today's drill, an instructor explains, the Taliban will be played by U.S. Marines, and the "village" will be just down from the driving practice loop.
An Afghan police officer uses a stick to point out targets to his team on a map drawn in the dirt. They grab their weapons and head out, taking cover behind a berm. A pickup truck drives up. The Afghans take aim and mimic the sound of a machine gun. The Marines tumble out of the vehicle, grabbing their chests as they fall to the ground.
That's a successful day at the U.S. Marine-run Joint Sustainment Academy in southwestern Afghanistan, which has been offering supplementary training on weapons, specialized skills and unit leadership to Afghan soldiers and police since 2009. The Afghans who attend the academy say they learn things that were never taught in their official training: how to handle different weapons and how to organize a patrol or an ambush.
But now, even as U.S. officials talk about their commitment to training and advising Afghan security forces well past 2014, the Joint Sustainment Academy is preparing to shut down.
Officials in the U.S. talking about the need to decrease combat operations in Afghanistan have been much more reticent to highlight one aspect of the drawdown: that plenty of U.S. advisers and mentors are also leaving.
Senate minority leader McConnell: Odds long against lawmakers seeking to gut health care law
ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (AP) — It's on his to-do list, but U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says the odds are against repealing the health care law championed by President Barack Obama.
The Kentucky Republican said Monday it's hard to unravel something of the magnitude of the 2,700-page health care law, WHAS-TV (http://bit.ly/LSUtqX ) reports.
"If you thought it was a good idea for the federal government to go in this direction, I'd say the odds are still on your side," McConnell said. "Because it's a lot harder to undo something than it is to stop it in the first place."
McConnell discussed the law in comments to about 50 people at Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown. The state's senior senator was making stops at Kentucky hospitals discussing what's next since last week's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court's that the law was constitutional.
The court upheld the law's crucial mandate that individuals buy health insurance or face a penalty.
APNewsBreak: Researchers to announce evidence of 'God particle' that explains universe
GENEVA (AP) — Physicists say they have all but proven that the "God particle" exists. They have a footprint and a shadow, and the only thing left is to see for themselves the elusive subatomic particle believed to give all matter in the universe size and shape.
Scientists at the world's biggest atom smasher plan to announce Wednesday that they have nearly confirmed the primary plank of a theory that could restructure the understanding of why matter has mass, which combines with gravity to give an object weight.
The idea is much like gravity and Isaac Newton's discovery: It was there all the time before Newton explained it. But now scientists know what it is and can put that knowledge to further use.
The focus of the excitement is the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle long sought by physicists.
Researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, say that they have compiled vast amounts of data that show the footprint and shadow of the particle, even though it has never actually been glimpsed.
Women living large on two wheels and a gas tank like never before
NEW YORK (AP) — Cris Baldwin was 7 when she commandeered her brother's minibike on their Wisconsin dairy farm and first felt the wind in her face. More than 250,000 miles and 42 years later, it's still two wheels and a gas tank for the school administrator.
Baldwin is an assistant dean at Washington University in St. Louis, but that's just one part of her. She's also past president and a chapter founder of the 30-year-old Women on Wheels, one of the country's oldest and largest motorcycle clubs for women at about 2,000 members.
"It really is freeing from your day to day obligations, enjoying the moment, not thinking about bills or sending kids to college," Baldwin said. "I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's my two-wheel therapy."
The number of women motorcycle operators in the U.S. has increased slowly to about 7.2 million of about 27 million overall in 2009, according to the latest survey by the Motorcycle Industry Council. About 1 in 10 owners are women, said Cam Arnold, a vice president for the trade group.
"I hate riding on the back of a bike," Arnold said. "It's a lot more fun being in control."