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.
Across the eastern US, people with no electricity struggle through a third day of heat
SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — Across the eastern U.S., people are struggling through a third day of sweltering heat with no electricity. Their groceries are long gone, either used up in weekend cookouts or left to spoil in useless refrigerators. The usual frozen treats people turn to on a hot summer day have melted away.
The basics of daily life are difficult: Washing machines won't work without electricity, leading to some creative wardrobes. Bottled water has gone from luxury to necessity for people whose underground wells aren't pumping.
Storms that swept across the area late Friday left 22 people dead, and nearly 1.8 million people remained without power Monday evening. Utility companies say it could be days before the lights are on again.
'THEY NEED HELP'
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.
Apparent winner of Mexican presidential race faces struggle for support
MEXICO CITY (AP) — The apparent victor of Mexico's presidential race, Enrique Pena Nieto, struggled Monday with the sticky bonds of his party's notorious past, the limitation of his election mandate and an opponent who refused to concede defeat.
His long-ruling and now-returned Institutional Revolutionary Party, the PRI, won only about 38 percent of the vote and is unlikely to get a majority in Congress. In fact, it may lose seats.
He faces an old guard in the PRI that still exercises considerable power, a war with fierce drug cartels and a still sluggish economy. His closest rival, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who polled a higher-than-expected vote of about 32 percent, refused to accept the loss, and many of his militant followers were suspicious of the results.
President Barack Obama called Pena Nieto on Monday to congratulate him. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City said Obama told him the United States "looks forward to advancing common goals, including promoting democracy, economic prosperity, and security in the region and around the globe, in the coming years."
Pena Nieto's account of the talk suggested his party has left behind the touchy nationalism of the past. He expressed interest in cooperation in security, commerce and infrastructure, but didn't bring up the traditional Mexican issue of U.S. immigration reform to help the 12 million Mexicans who live in the United States.
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.
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.
Dispute over Thomas Kinkade's estate to remain public for now
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Hearings in the dispute between Thomas Kinkade's widow and girlfriend over the late artist's $66 million estate will not be conducted behind closed doors — at least for now, a judge ruled on Monday.
Kinkade's widow, Nanette Kinkade, had sought to keep the matter private, asking Judge Thomas Cain to immediately send the case to an arbitration panel and not open probate court.
But Cain rejected that request, saying he was being asked to make findings based on very limited information, the San Jose Mercury News reported (http://bit.ly/LsDJlWhttp://bit.ly/LsDJlW ).
At the center of the dispute are handwritten notes that Thomas Kinkade's girlfriend, Amy Pinto-Walsh, says bequeath her his mansion in Monte Sereno and $10 million to establish a museum of his paintings. She was living with Kinkade and found his body when he died in April.
Nanette Kinkade, Kinkade's wife of 30 years, disputes those claims and is seeking full control of the estate. She and Kinkade were legally separated when Kinkade, 54, died of an accidental alcohol and Valium overdose.