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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law 

AP Photo
Surrounded by bill supporters, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signs House Bill 60 into law during a signing event Wednesday, April 23, 2013, in Ellijay, Ga. The bill makes several changes to the state's gun law. It allows those with a license to carry to bring a gun into a bar without restriction and into some government buildings that don't have certain security measures. It also allows religious leaders to decide whether it's OK for a person with a carry license to bring a gun into their place of worship.

ELLIJAY, Ga. (AP) -- Criticized by one group as the "guns everywhere" bill, Georgia took a big step Wednesday toward expanding where licensed carriers can take their weapons, with the governor signing a law that allows them in bars without restriction and in some churches, schools and government buildings under certain circumstances.

Following mass shootings in recent years, some states have pursued stronger limits on guns while others like 
Georgia have taken the opposite path, with advocates arguing that people should be allowed to carry weapons as an issue of public safety. Republicans control large majorities in the Georgia General Assembly, and the bill passed overwhelming despite objections from some religious leaders and local government officials.

A few hundred gun rights supporters gathered at an outdoor pavilion along a river in north Georgia in the town of Ellijay for the bill signing by Gov. Nathan Deal and a barbecue. Many sported "Stop Gun Control" buttons and several had weapons holstered at their side. House Speaker David Ralston offered a thinly veiled critique of those who might oppose the bill while describing the people of his district.

"This is the apple capital of Georgia. And, yes, it's a community where we cling to our religion and our guns," Ralston said, drawing big applause in referencing a past comment made by President Barack Obama.

The bill makes several changes to state law and takes effect July 1. Besides in bars without restrictions, guns could be brought into some government buildings that don't have certain security measures, such as metal detectors or security guards screening visitors. Religious leaders would have the final say as to whether guns can be carried into their place of worship.

And school districts would now be able, if they choose, to allow some employees to carry a firearm on school grounds under certain conditions.

"This bill is about the good guys, you guys," bill sponsor Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, told the crowd. 

"Amid all the misinformation and emotions, one must remember that this bill isn't about irresponsibly arming the masses. This is a bill about safety and responsibility."

Opponents, however, include Americans for Responsible Solutions, a group co-founded by former Democratic Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who survived a shooting in 2011 and started a nationwide campaign on gun control. The group's executive director Pia Carusone on its website said, "the bill is extremism in action; it moves Georgia out of the mainstream."

The Georgia Municipal Association also was among those raising concerns, sending a letter to Deal arguing local governments couldn't afford to increase security. Deal, in his remarks, argued the bill empowers local decisions.

"House Bill 60 will protect law-abiding citizens by expanding the number of places that they can carry their guns without penalty, while at the same time this bill respects the rights of private property owners who still set the rules for their land and their buildings," Deal said.

That would include bar owners, who could post that firearms are not permitted in their establishments.

In Vienna, a city of about 4,000 residents south of Macon, it would cost $60,000 annually to increase security at city buildings, said Mayor Pro Tem Beth English. English, president of the Georgia Municipal Association, said she supports gun rights and has a carry permit but worries the added security costs will force the city to increase taxes.

"Do we raise taxes to provide the police protection or do we take the risk of potential injury to our public?" English said, noting emotions sometimes run high at city hall.

Some religious leaders also opposed the law, saying it will increase confusion. Under it, the assumption is still that guns aren't allowed unless otherwise noted. The law adds a provision, however, that those in violation cannot be arrested or fined more than $100 if they have a valid permit.

"This is the gun lobby foisting their agenda on churches, and I think it's a tragic violation of church and state," said the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church.

It's unclear whether any school districts plan to take advantage of the new law, but proponents hope it will deter violence.

"Schools have been gun-free zones for some time and those have been where some of the biggest instances of violence have occurred," said Gary Holland, a retired firefighter from Dawsonville who attended the bill signing. "If I'm a criminal, I would select a target where I know guns are not allowed because it would make the pickings easier."

The bill passed largely along party lines in the House and Senate. The most prominent Democrat to back the bill was state Sen. Jason Carter, who is running for governor.

Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, reiterated his support for the Second Amendment and noted he had worked to improve the bill to "ensure that places of worship have a real choice on whether to allow guns on their properties."


Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field

Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field 
 

AP Photo
Baseball fans wait to enter Wrigley Field on the 100th anniversary of the first baseball game at the ballpark, before a game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs, Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Chicago.

CHICAGO (AP) -- There was a giant replica cake right next to the Ernie Banks statue, and an old-time band played as fans made their way through the main entrance.

The famed marquee had a message, too.

"Happy Birthday, Wrigley Field," it read.

Exactly 100 years after the Chicago Federals pounded the Kansas City Packers in the first game at the famed ballpark, Wrigley was the scene of a joyous birthday bash on Wednesday afternoon. Banks and other Hall of Famers such as Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Andre Dawson were on hand, and so were Bears greats Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers.

The Cubs and Diamondbacks went retro, wearing throwback 1914 jerseys, and the famed scoreboard listed Kansas City and Chi-Feds in their place. It was a day of celebration, a day of reflection. And a day that ended with another loss, the Cubs falling 7-5 after blowing a ninth-inning lead.

But before that, the memories, the stories, flowed like runs in a big rally.

"It just gives me goose bumps because I had a chance to play here," Williams said. "I often said this was my playground during the summer for so many years. So I have enjoyed it and I still enjoy it."

The celebration was held as Cubs ownership and the neighboring rooftop owners remain in a standstill over proposed renovations. The $500 million project, which includes a giant Jumbotron, is on hold because the Ricketts family wants assurances that it won't be sued over obstructed views.

"You can't ask a team to be competitive and you can't ask people to do things and then tie their hands and their legs," baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said. "It's just wrong. Somebody has to say it so I'm happy to say it."

The rooftop owners, who charge fans to sit in bleachers atop their buildings, have a contract under which they share 17 percent of their revenues with the Cubs. The Tribune Co., the previous owner, signed the deal and "this ownership didn't," Selig said.

He said the treatment the current owners - the Ricketts family - has received is "beyond unfair" and that he'll do everything he "possibly can" to help them.

He also said the Rickettses have not approached him about moving, that they're committed to renovating Wrigley and staying there.

"They know the right thing to do for this franchise and this sport is to preserve this, just like the Red Sox preserved Fenway," said Selig, who made his first trip to the ballpark in May 1944.

Assuming they eventually go ahead with the renovations, it'll be up to the Ricketts family to preserve that charm while bringing the stadium into the 21st century. Wednesday was a day to turn back the clock, a day to celebrate the century that was at the neighborhood park on Chicago's North Side.

Ushers wore party hats, and fans received birthday cupcakes and throwback jerseys. There was a replica Wrigley Field cake from Carlo's Bakery, setting of the hit TLC show "Cake Boss," just outside the ballpark.

On his way in from suburban Glen Ellyn, Illinois, Williams thought about all the events besides baseball games that have taken place at Wrigley Field over the years. The ballpark has hosted everything from boxing to soccer to pro wrestling to the circus to the rodeo to concerts to a Chicago Blackhawks game. There was even this: On back-to-back weekends in January 1944, ski jumpers leapt from scaffolding covered in snow and ice and landed behind second base.

Wrigley Field, it seems, has seen everything but a World Series championship. The Cubs haven't won one since 1908 - eight years before they started playing at what was then known as Weeghman Park.

Of course, the Bears celebrated a few at Wrigley. They won NFL championship games there in 1933, 1941, 1943 and 1963 before they moved to Soldier Field in 1971.

Williams recalled watching the Bears at Wrigley, back when Sayers and Butkus and Mike Ditka were playing and when George Halas was running the club.

Butkus had a few good stories, too.

He mentioned the stench one time in the locker room, one he thought was coming from Doug Bufone's "ratty" gym shoes.

Bufone insisted the smell wasn't coming from the shoes. Butkus didn't believe him at first. Then, he said, they were putting something on top of a locker when a tile fell and out plopped - you guessed it - a dead rat.

"I said, `Oh, there it is,'" Butkus said.

To Butkus, a South Side product who starred at Illinois and his hometown team, playing at Wrigley meant he'd made it - not because of his Chicago ties, but because of the stadium itself. Because of its quirks, its imperfections

"Pros aren't supposed to play where everything is perfect," he said.

Dawson agreed.

"The ballpark itself, there's just something about it," he said. "The intricate angles. You came out and you walked around and looked around, and you just said, `Wow.'"


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

At mudslide scene, Obama mourns with survivors

At mudslide scene, Obama mourns with survivors 

AP Photo
President Barack Obama speaks to first responders, recovery workers and community members at the Oso Fire Department in Oso, Wash., Tuesday, April 22, 2014, the site of the deadly mudslide that struck the community in March.

OSO, Wash. (AP) -- Swooping over a landscape of unspeakable sadness and death, President Barack Obama took an aerial tour Tuesday of the place where more than three dozen people perished in a mudslide last month. He pledged a nation's solidarity with those who are enduring "unimaginable pain and difficulty" in the aftermath of the destruction.


"We're going to be strong right alongside you," Obama promised the people whose lives were upended when a wall of mud and water swept away the hillside on March 22 and took with it at least 41 lives and dozens of homes.

Obama first boarded a helicopter to survey the awful scene.

Evidence of the mudslide's power was everywhere: trees ripped from the ground, a highway paved with mud and debris, a river's course altered. And in the midst of the awful tableau, an American flag flying at half-staff.

Even as the president flew overhead, the search for bodies continued below. Two people were still listed as missing.

Back on the ground, the president gathered at a community chapel in the small town of Oso, about an hour northeast of Seattle, to mourn with families of the victims. He met separately with emergency responders before speaking in a small brick firehouse about all he had seen and heard on a clear, sunny afternoon.

"The families that I met with showed incredible strength and grace through unimaginable pain and difficulty," Obama said. Then he offered them a promise.

"The whole country's thinking about you, and we're going to make sure that we're there every step of the way as we go through the grieving, the mourning, the recovery," he said.

Obama said few Americans had heard of the tightknit community of Oso before the tragedy but in the past month "we've all been inspired by the incredible way that the community has come together."

Firefighter coats hung on the firehouse walls as Obama spoke, with homemade signs above them reading: "We (Heart) Oso." "Thank you Oso." "Oso Proud."

Brande Taylor, whose boyfriend volunteered to work on the mudslide debris field, was glad the president made the effort to visit this rural outpost.

"It is a small community. It's little. It's not huge on the map. But there's still people here who need help, that need the support," said Taylor, who stood near the firehouse. "And they need to know the president is here to support and to help them rebuild their lives."

Kellie Perkins, who lives in Oso, said Obama's visit would help families who have lost so much begin to heal.

"They don't now have houses any more, they don't have anything they own, their friends or relatives are dead," she said. "I think they need this."

At the request of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Obama earlier this month declared that a major disaster had occurred in the state, making it and affected residents eligible for various forms of financial aid, including help covering the costs of temporary housing, home repairs and the loss of uninsured property. The Homeland Security Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers also are helping.

The president repeatedly has stepped into the role of national consoler in times of mourning. Just two weeks ago, he met with families and comrades of those killed in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas. Three soldiers died and 16 others were wounded in the rampage by another soldier, who killed himself.

Obama also has mourned with the grieving after carnage in Tucson, Ariz., Aurora, Colo., Newtown, Conn., Boston, the Washington Navy Yard - and once before at Fort Hood.

Tuesday's stop in Washington came as Obama headed for Tokyo, the first stop on a four-country visit to the Asia-Pacific region. The president is scheduled to spend the rest of this week and part of next week conferring with the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.
 

Michigan affirmative ban is OK, Supreme Court says

Michigan affirmative ban is OK, Supreme Court says 

AP Photo
FILE - This Sept. 19, 2013 file photo shows Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaking at the University of Delaware in Newark, Del. The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Michigan's ban on using race as a factor in college admissions. The justices said in a 6-2 ruling that Michigan voters had the right to change their state constitution to prohibit public colleges and universities from taking account of race in admissions decisions. The justices said that a lower federal court was wrong to set aside the change as discriminatory. In dissent, Sotomayor said the decision tramples on the rights of minorities, even though the amendment was adopted democratically. “But without checks, democratically approved legislation can oppress minority groups,” said Sotomayor, who read her dissent aloud in the courtroom Tuesday.
  
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A state's voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in college admissions, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a blow to affirmative action that also laid bare tensions among the justices about a continuing need for programs that address racial inequality in America.

The 6-2 decision upheld a voter-approved change to the Michigan Constitution that forbids the state's public colleges to take race into account. That change was indeed up to the voters, the ruling said, over one justice's impassioned dissent that accused the court of simply wanting to wish away inequality.

The ruling bolsters similar voter-approved initiatives banning affirmative action in education in California and Washington state. A few other states have adopted laws or issued executive orders to bar race-conscious admissions policies.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said voters in Michigan chose to eliminate racial preferences, presumably because such a system could give rise to race-based resentment. Kennedy said nothing in the Constitution or the court's prior cases gives judges the authority to undermine the election results.

"This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it," Kennedy said.

He stressed that the court was not disturbing the holding of a 2003 case from Michigan -which gave rise to the 2006 Constitution change - permitting the consideration of race in admissions. A Texas affirmative action case decided in June also did nothing to undermine that principle, Kennedy said.

In a separate opinion siding with Kennedy, Justice Antonin Scalia said Michigan residents favored a colorblind constitution and "it would be shameful for us to stand in their way."

Strongly dissenting from the majority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the decision trampled on the rights of minorities, even though the Michigan amendment was adopted democratically.

"But without checks, democratically approved legislation can oppress minority groups," said Sotomayor, who read her dissent aloud in the courtroom Tuesday. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sided with Sotomayor.

Michigan voters "changed the basic rules of the political process in that state in a manner that uniquely disadvantaged racial minorities," Sotomayor said.

Judges "ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society," she said. She is one of two justices, along with Clarence Thomas, who have acknowledged that affirmative action was a factor in their college and law school admissions. Sotomayor attended Princeton University and Thomas is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross. They both attended law school at Yale University. 

Thomas is a staunch opponent of racial preferences.

At 58 pages, Sotomayor's dissent was longer than the combined length of the four opinions in support of the outcome.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Scalia and Thomas agreed with Kennedy.

Responding to Sotomayor, Roberts said it "does more harm than good to question the openness and candor of those on either side of the debate."

Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the case, presumably because she worked on it at an earlier stage while serving in the Justice Department.

University of Notre Dame law professor Jennifer Mason McAward said the opinions by five justices point "to a much more nuanced and heated debate among the justices regarding the permissibility and wisdom of racial preferences in general."

In 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the consideration of race among many factors in college admissions in a case from Michigan.

Three years later, affirmative action opponents persuaded Michigan voters to change the state constitution to outlaw any consideration of race.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the issue was not affirmative action, but the way in which its opponents went about trying to bar it.

In its 8-7 decision, the appeals court said the provision ran afoul of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment because it presented an extraordinary burden to affirmative action supporters who would have to mount their own campaign to repeal the constitutional provision. The Supreme Court said the appeals court judges were wrong to set aside the change as discriminatory.

But Sotomayor took up their line of reasoning in her dissent. She said University of Michigan alumni are free to lobby the state Board of Regents to admit more alumni children, but that the regents now are powerless to do anything about race-sensitive admissions.

Breyer parted company with other liberal justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg, voting to uphold the Michigan ban because it effectively took power from faculty members at the state colleges and gave it to the voters, 
"from an unelected administrative body to a politically responsive one." Unlike the conservative justices whom he joined Tuesday, Breyer said he continues to favor "race-conscious programs" in education.

Black and Latino enrollment at the University of Michigan has dropped since the ban took effect. At California's top public universities, African-Americans are a smaller share of incoming freshmen, while Latino enrollment is up slightly, but far below the state's growth in the percentage of Latino high school graduates.
The case was the court's second involving affirmative action in as many years. Last June, the justices ordered lower courts to take another look at the University of Texas admissions plan in a ruling that could make it harder for public colleges to justify any use of race in admissions.

Tuesday's case is Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 12-682.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

In West Bank, teen offenders face different fates

In West Bank, teen offenders face different fates 

AP Photo
In this Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013 photo, a Palestinian boy walks around his home in the village of Beit Ummar near the West Bank city of Hebron. At the age of 15, the boy was held for nine months in an Israeli military jail for throwing rocks at passing Israeli cars near his village in the West Bank. An Israeli 15-year-old boy was arrested for a similar crime at the same time but faced a different justice system. The Israeli boy refused to allow his photo to be taken.


BEIT UMAR, West Bank (AP) -- The boys were both 15, with the crackly voices and awkward peach fuzz of adolescence. They lived just a few minutes away from one another in the West Bank. And both were accused of throwing stones at vehicles, one day after the other.

But there was a crucial difference that helped to shape each boy's fate: One was Israeli, and the other Palestinian.

The tale of the two teens provides a stark example of the vast disparities of Israel's justice system in the West Bank, a contested area at the heart of the elusive search for a lasting peace.

While Israeli settlers in the West Bank fall mostly under civilian rule, Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law. Israeli and Palestinian youths face inequities at every stage in the path of justice, from arrests to convictions and sentencing, according to police statistics obtained by The Associated Press through multiple requests under Israel's freedom of information law.

The results can ripple for years.

"Jail destroyed his life," said the Palestinian boy's father.

Only 53 Israeli settler youths were arrested for stone-throwing over the past six years, the data shows, and 89 percent were released without charge. Six were indicted. Four of those were found "guilty without conviction," a common sentence for Israeli juveniles that aims not to stain their record. One was cleared. The sixth case was still in court as of October, the most recent information available.

By contrast, 1,142 Palestinian youths were arrested by police over the same period for throwing stones, and 528 were indicted. All were convicted. Lawyers say the penalty is typically three to eight months in military prison.

Israel's Justice Ministry said more than five Israeli stone-throwers were indicted in the past six years, but declined to provide examples. Itzik Bam, a lawyer who represents Israeli settler youths, said he knew of 20 Israeli minors in the West Bank indicted for stone-throwing in recent years, including six who pleaded guilty and six who were cleared. He said the other cases are still in court.

The police numbers are not comprehensive, because the Israeli army also arrests Palestinian youths, and because the state prosecutor also issues indictments against settlers in more serious cases. However, the gap between the numbers for Israelis and Palestinians is clear and wide.

Israel's Justice Ministry said the numbers reflect the fact that Palestinians threw more stones than Israelis, 
rather than unequal treatment.

"Though the legal systems are different - military court versus civil court - the relevant law is implied impartially," said Yehuda Shefer, a deputy state prosecutor who is head of a Justice Ministry committee for West Bank law enforcement.

The Israeli Justice Ministry says it would like to rehabilitate Palestinian youth, but ends up jailing many offenders because their parents and leaders support their crimes. However, critics accuse Israel of dismissing Israeli crimes as youthful indiscretions, while treating Palestinian youths like hardened criminals.

"Everyone knows there is a problem with the treatment of minors in the West Bank, a systematic discrimination between Israeli minors and Palestinian minors," said Michael Sfard, an Israeli attorney and Palestinian human rights defender. "Now you have the figures to prove that."
-----
Stones have become an iconic weapon in the West Bank, an arid land where they are plentiful. In the past six years, more than half of all arrests of Palestinian youth have been over stone-throwing, which Israel claims can be the first step toward militancy. Extremist Israeli settlers have also adopted the tactic.

On Feb. 20, 2012, the Israeli boy joined a group of youths pelting a bus with rocks at the entrance to Bat Ayin, according to police reports. The settlement, located in the southern West Bank between Jerusalem and the biblical city of Hebron, is known for its hardline population.


Police said they targeted the bus because the driver was Arab. The rocks damaged the bus but did not harm the driver.

The boy, whose name cannot be published under local law because he is a minor, was brought to the Hebron region police station at 9 p.m., with his father by his side. In his interrogation, the boy invoked his right to remain silent. He spent a night in the station and four days under house arrest. Then he was freed without charge.

The following day, according to police reports, the Palestinian boy lobbed rocks at Israeli cars zipping past his hometown of Beit Umar, a farming town of 14,000 people perched near an Israeli military tower. Police said he and others wanted to show solidarity with a high-profile Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike in an Israeli jail.

The rocks shattered the front windshield of a white Mazda and damaged three other vehicles on a busy highway. There were no injuries. The incident was caught on tape and broadcast on Israeli evening news.

Two weeks later, at 3:30 a.m., Israeli soldiers kicked down the door to the Palestinian boy's bedroom, carried him to a jeep, blindfolded him and tied his hands behind his back with plastic handcuffs, he said. He was slapped by soldiers, kept awake all night and placed in a military jail cell with 10 other Palestinian youths, he said.

It would be more than nine months before he could go free.

An Israeli psychological exam conducted in prison found the boy showed signs of anxiety and depression. 

He told the prison's clinical psychologist and social worker that he looked at a photo of his family to help him sleep, and had nightmares about soldiers killing his relatives. The exam also found he was short-breathed and had a cough, which he said was from soldiers hitting him in the chest during his arrest.
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The West Bank, an expanse of rocky hilltops blanketed in olive trees, is central to the current round of U.S.-brokered peace talks. For Palestinians, the West Bank is the heart of a future state, along with adjacent east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. For Israel, the land known by its biblical name of Judea and Samaria is significant to Jewish heritage and to security.

Since Israel captured the West Bank in 1967, it has built more than 100 settlements, creating "facts on the ground" that complicate any future withdrawal. Some 60 percent of the West Bank is under full Israeli control.

Today, more than 350,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, amid roughly 2.5 million Palestinians. The two sides have little interaction, and for the most part live under separate - and often unequal - systems of law.

While the Palestinian Authority governs day-to-day affairs, the Israeli military wields overall control. Palestinians need Israeli permission to enter Israel or to travel abroad through the Jordanian border. Palestinians frequently suffer from poor roads, creaky infrastructure and water shortages.

Israeli settlers, by contrast, are Israeli citizens. They are subject to Israeli law, vote in Israeli elections, move 
freely in and out of Israel and have access to Israel's modern infrastructure. They serve in and are protected by the Israeli army.

Israel says that extending its laws to Palestinians would be tantamount to annexation, and that many of the restrictions, such as military checkpoints, are needed for security. Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Israel tries to help the Palestinians but acknowledged the setup as problematic.

"We're stuck in this interim status and it's not good," he said. "This is precisely the reason we need to resolve 
this thing through negotiations."

Israel's Ministry of Justice says it attaches "great importance" to narrowing the differences in the law regarding juvenile detainees. In 2009, Israel created a juvenile military court. In 2011, it raised the age of minority for Palestinian youth from 16 to 18. And in 2013, it shortened the amount of time a West Bank Palestinian minor can be held under detention, from eight days to, in most cases, one or two days - still double the time allowed for an Israeli minor.

"In our perspective, a minor is a minor," the Justice Ministry said in a statement.
-------
The Israeli boy's journey through the justice system was one of repeated second chances. The middle child of a psychologist mother and a psychiatrist father, he lived and studied at a religious school in Bat Ayin, a rural community of about 200 families.

After his release from jail, the case remained closed until he was arrested again. This time, he was accused of attacking two Palestinians with pepper spray while in possession of a knife and a slingshot decorated with the words "Revenge on Arabs."

During a court hearing on the pepper spray charge, prosecutors brought up his previous rock-throwing arrest. Only then was he indicted for both offenses.

The Israeli minor pleaded guilty to pepper-spraying but denied throwing rocks. He was put under house arrest for nine months.

While at home, he prepared for Israeli national matriculation exams. During the final three months, he was permitted to attend school. Then he was freed. It was nearly two years after the alleged stone-throwing incident that he finally stood trial, which is ongoing.

There was no such leniency for the Palestinian boy. The youngest of four brothers, he grew up in a modest cement home surrounded by bougainvillea plants and verdant farm lands. He liked to play basketball. His lawyer would only permit the AP to identify him by his first name, Zein.

Zein's father, a short man with a cigarette perched under his mustache and a forehead carved with lines, described the boy as a B-plus student who could have gone on to a professional career.

That all changed after his arrest. While many Palestinian prisoners accept plea bargains in exchange for reduced imprisonment, the boy pleaded innocent and went to trial. After nine and a half months in prison, he was put under house arrest. Seven months later, he was convicted and sentenced to time already served.

In the ruling, the judge criticized the police interrogator for not asking the boy if he understood his rights, and not giving him the opportunity to consult with his lawyer or parents.

"It appears from the interrogation in this case that the Israeli police do not understand the sensitivity obligated in interrogating juvenile suspects," military judge Shahar Greenberg wrote.

Requests for response from the Israeli police were not answered.
-----
In the end, the Israeli and the Palestinian teens had one thing in common: Despite Israel's stated goals, neither was rehabilitated. Instead, both were embraced by communities that condone stone-throwing.
  
After his release from house arrest, the Israeli boy joined an extremist group known as the "Hilltop Youth" and moved to an unauthorized settlement outpost called Hill 904. These defiant, ideological Jewish teens squat on West Bank hilltops, and attack Palestinians and their property. There was a big celebration when he arrived, the boy said.

He built makeshift homes on the hill for six months and studied Jewish law with his comrades. Then he moved to another outpost. And another. And another.

He still denies throwing rocks, but said it was an acceptable tactic to fight Palestinians, citing a teaching by an extremist rabbi. He described himself as a warrior in an ideological battle for Jewish control of the West Bank.

"Wherever soldiers are needed, I go," he mumbled outside the courtroom after a recent hearing. He wore the settler youth uniform of long side locks and tattered cargo pants, with a few chin hairs of adolescence. "We are commanded to inherit the land, and to expel (Palestinians)."

When the Palestinian boy got out of jail, he rejoined his 10th-grade class at the end of the school year, but couldn't catch up and dropped out. For a while he tried to sell knock-off shoes hoarded in his bedroom. 

Now he mopes around his parents' house, not doing much of anything.

"My school wanted me to go back to classes, but I quit," he said with a shrug, sitting in his parents' living room in sandals, with greased hair.

His lawyer, Neri Ramati, is appealing the conviction, while prosecutors are seeking a tougher sentence of six more months in jail.

His father, Hisham, said Palestinians have every right to throw stones to achieve independence. He said he and two other sons were all arrested by Israel when they threw stones, unlike his youngest son, who claims innocence.

His father's conclusion? "He's a coward."


Friday, April 18, 2014

Some countries get Obama, but want his wife, too

Some countries get Obama, but want his wife, too 

AP Photo
FILE - This March 23, 2014 file photo shows first lady Michelle Obama walking with her daughters Malia, left, and Sasha, right, as they visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China in Beijing. When President Barack Obama travels abroad, getting just the leader of the free world doesn’t seem to be enough. Countries want the first lady, too. But Michelle Obama won’t join her husband when he heads to Asia next week and her absence is likely to sting, especially in Japan. It’s the first of four countries on Obama’s travel schedule and the only one welcoming him on an official state visit.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- When President Barack Obama travels abroad, sometimes it's not enough for just the leader of the free world to show up. People in other countries want the first lady, too.

But Michelle Obama won't join her husband when he heads to Asia next week, and her absence is likely to sting, especially in image-conscious Japan. It's the first of four countries on Obama's travel schedule and one of two that are welcoming him with official state visits.

"If Madame Obama could have come, it would have been better. But the most important thing is that President Obama accepted this is a state visit," said Matake Kamiya, a professor of international relations at the National Defense University in Yokosuka, near Tokyo. "From an expert point of view, it's sort of worrisome why Madame Obama isn't coming."

The fact that Mrs. Obama recently spent a week in China with her mother, Marian Robinson, and daughters Malia and Sasha also is sure to be noted in Japan, a close U.S. ally and China rival. But the first lady's communications director, Maria Cristina Gonzalez Noguera, said it was not expected that Mrs. Obama would join the president on a return trip to Asia so soon, having returned less than a month ago.

"When it comes to international travel, the first lady has always chosen her trips based on what's best for her family," Noguera said in an emailed statement.

The last U.S. first lady who did not join her husband on a state visit to Japan was Gerald Ford's wife, Betty. Ford became the first sitting American president to visit Japan when he arrived in November 1974, a few months after he took over the office from Richard M. Nixon.

Anita McBride, who was chief of staff to Laura Bush, said having the president's wife on his overseas trips is always welcomed - by both the White House and the host country - because she can carry out a different type of diplomacy.

"They can focus on different things and, between the two of them, really spread a lot of goodwill," said McBride, who heads a first ladies' project at American University.

When Mrs. Obama does travel with the president, she often gets as much - and occasionally more - local media coverage.

Last year in Northern Ireland, where Obama and other major world leaders gathered for an international summit, she was "the Obama" who got top billing in the local newspaper. The front page of the Belfast Telegraph featured a head-to-toe photograph of Mrs. Obama with the headline, "How Michelle (and a bit of trouble with her fringe) stole the show." The headline referred to the first lady's debut of her longer bangs that swept in front of her eyes during a speech to students.

Obama and the summit host, British Prime Minister David Cameron, made the front page, too, but in separate and smaller photos.

Mrs. Obama's China visit last month was partly seen as making up for her not accompanying the president to California last year for the visit by President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan. The meeting fell days before Sasha's 12th birthday, and Mrs. Obama's office said at the time that she stayed back in Washington to be with family.

In public, Beijing muted its hurt feelings over Mrs. Obama's absence in California. But deep disappointment was registered in some Chinese mainstream and social media.

Many Chinese had looked forward to comparing Peng, an unusually visible and fashionable Chinese first lady, to her glamorous and high-profile American counterpart. Peng holds the rank of major general in the People's Liberation Army and was a popular singer on state television.

Mrs. Obama made up for her absence in California with a well-received, widely reported visit to three Chinese cities last month. She jumped rope, dabbled in tai-chi, walked a section of the Great Wall with her daughters, fed pandas, met with Xi and ate dinner with Peng.

Mrs. Obama's comments about the free flow of information, however, did not make it into official China state news reports.

The Japanese are putting a good face on Obama's upcoming solo stop, noting that his stay will be short. One high-level Japanese government official chalked up the first lady's absence to a new "American style" of travel. The official was not authorized to discuss by name details of Obama's trip before the White House announced them and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Mrs. Obama's most recent overseas trip with her husband came last summer, when they visited three African countries with their daughters, shortly after their stops in Northern Ireland and Germany. Since then, the president has traveled without her to Sweden, Russia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Saudi Arabia.


Captain of sunken South Korean ferry arrested

Captain of sunken South Korean ferry arrested 

AP Photo
South Korean navy personnel try to install buoys to mark the sunken passenger ship Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea, Friday, April 18, 2014. Rescuers scrambled to find hundreds of ferry passengers still missing Friday and feared dead, as fresh questions emerged about whether quicker action by the captain of the doomed ship could have saved lives.
 
MOKPO, South Korea (AP) -- The captain of a sunken South Korean ferry was arrested Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need, as investigators looked into whether his evacuation order came too late to save lives. Two crew members were also arrested, a prosecutor said.


The disaster three days ago left more than 270 people missing and at least 29 people dead.

As the last bit of the sunken ferry's hull slipped Friday beneath the murky water off southern South Korea, there was a new victim: a vice principal of the high school whose students were among the passengers was found hanged, an apparent suicide.

The Sewol had left the northwestern port of Incheon on Tuesday on an overnight journey to the holiday island of Jeju in the south with 476 people aboard, including 323 students from Danwon High School in Ansan. It capsized within hours of the crew making a distress call to the shore a little before 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Only its dark blue keel jutted out over the surface. But by Friday night, even that had disappeared, and rescuers set two giant beige buoys to mark the area. Navy divers attached underwater air bags to the 6,852-ton ferry to prevent it from sinking deeper, the Defense Ministry said.

The coast guard said divers began pumping air into the ship to try to sustain any survivors.

Strong currents and rain made it difficult to get inside the ferry. Divers worked in shifts to try to get into the vessel, where most of the passengers were believed to have been trapped when it sank, coast guard spokesman Kim Jae-in said.

Investigators said the accident came at a point where the ship had to make a turn, and prosecutor Park Jae-eok said investigators were looking at whether the third mate ordered a turn that was so sharp that it caused the vessel to list.

The sharp turn came between 8:48 a.m. and 8:49 a.m., but it's not known whether it was done voluntarily or because of some external factor, said Nam Jae-heon, a spokesman for the Maritime Ministry.
Another angle being probed is the role of the captain, 68-year-old Lee Joon-seok.

Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin said Lee was detained early Saturday, along with the two crew members. Lee faces five charges including negligence of duty and violation of maritime law, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Yang said earlier that Lee was not on the bridge when the ferry was passing through an area with many islands clustered closely together, something he said is required by law so the captain can help a mate make a turn. The captain also abandoned people in need of help and rescue, he said.

"The captain escaped before the passengers," Yang said.

Two crewmembers on the bridge of the ferry - a 25-year-old woman and a 55-year-old helmsman - also failed to reduce speed near the islands and conducted a sharp turn, Yang said. They also did not carry out necessary measures to save lives, he said.

Another focus of the investigation is that a quicker evacuation order by the captain could have saved lives.
Police said the vice principal who was found hanged from a tree on Jindo, an island near the sunken ship where survivors have been housed, had been rescued from the ferry.

Identified as Kang Min-kyu, he was the leader of the students traveling on a school excursion. In his suicide note, Kang said he felt guilty for surviving and wanted to take responsibility for what happened because he had led the trip, according to police.

He asked that his body be cremated and the ashes scattered where the ferry went down.

With only 174 survivors from the 476 aboard and the chances of survival becoming slimmer by the hour, it was shaping up to be one of South Korea's worst disasters, made all the more heartbreaking by the likely loss of so many young people, aged 16 or 17.

The toll rose to 29 after the body of a woman was recovered, authorities said early Saturday.

The country's last major ferry disaster was in 1993, when 292 people were killed.

A transcript of a ship-to-shore radio exchange and interviews by The Associated Press showed the captain delayed the evacuation for half an hour after a South Korean transportation official told the ship it might have to evacuate.

The recommendation by the unidentified official at the Jeju Vessel Traffic Services Center came at 9 a.m., just five minutes after a distress call by the Sewol. In the exchange, the Sewol crewmember says: "Currently the body of the ship has listed to the left. The containers have listed as well."

The Jeju VTS officer responds: "OK. Any loss of human life or injuries?" The ship's answer is: "It's impossible to check right now. The body of the ship has tilted, and it's impossible to move."

The VTS officer then says: "Yes, OK. Please wear life jackets and prepare as the people might have to abandon ship."

"It's hard for people to move," replies the crew member on the radio.

Oh Yong-seok, a helmsman on the ferry, told the AP that the first instructions from the captain were for passengers to put on life jackets and stay where they were as the crew tried to control the ship.

About 30 minutes later, the captain finally gave the order to evacuate, Oh said, adding that he wasn't sure if, in the confusion and chaos on the bridge, the order was relayed to the passengers. Several survivors told the AP that they never heard any evacuation order.

Lee, the captain, made a brief, videotaped appearance with his face hidden by a gray hoodie. "I am really sorry and deeply ashamed," Lee said. "I don't know what to say."

Three vessels with cranes arrived at the accident site to prepare to salvage the ferry. But they will not hoist the ship before getting approval from family members of those still believed inside because the lifting could endanger any survivors, said a coast guard officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

On Jindo, angry and distraught relatives watched the rescue attempts. Some held a Buddhist prayer ritual, crying and praying for their relatives.

"I want to jump into the water with them," said Park Geum-san, 59, the great-aunt of a missing student, Park Ye-ji. "My loved one is under the water and it's raining. Anger is not enough."

Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd, in Incheon, the operator of the ferry, added more cabin rooms to three floors after its 2012 purchase of the ship, which was built in Japan in 1994, an official at the private Korean Register of Shipping told the AP.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter was still under investigation, said the extension work between October 2012 and February 2013 increased the Sewol's weight by 187 tons and added enough room for 117 more people. The Sewol had a capacity of 921 when it sank.

As is common in South Korea, the ship's owner paid for a safety check by the Korean Register of Shipping, which found that the Sewol passed all safety tests, including whether it could stabilize in the event of tilting, the official said.

Prosecutors raided and seized materials and documents from the ship's operator, as well as six companies that had conducted safety checks, revamped the ship, or loaded container boxes, a sign that investigators will likely examine the ship's addition of rooms and how containers were loaded.
 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Jury convicts husband in Iraqi woman's death

Jury convicts husband in Iraqi woman's death 


EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) -- An Iraqi immigrant was convicted Thursday of bludgeoning his wife to death in a case that initially was considered a hate crime because a note found next to her body said: "This is my country, go back to yours, you terrorist."

Kassim Alhimidi, 49, shook his head from side to side and wagged a finger as jurors were polled, then chaos erupted in the courtroom when his oldest son stood and shouted obscenities. The son proclaimed his father's innocence before several deputies wrestled him out of the courtroom.

Alhimidi turned to the son and yelled in Arabic "God knows, and I attest to God, that I am not the killer. I am innocent."

Another son also shouted in his father's defense, while the victim's mother said Alhimidi deserved worse, according to the official court translator, Nahla David.

Superior Court Judge William McGrath and the jury cleared the courtroom during the outbursts. After a brief recess, the judge returned and scheduled sentencing for May 15.

Alhimidi faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for the murder of his 32-year-old wife, Shaima Alawadi, at their house in El Cajon, home to one of the largest enclaves of Iraqi immigrants in the U.S.

Prosecutors argued Alhimidi lied to police about his troubled marriage and apologized to his wife as she lay dying in a hospital. Defense lawyers said Alhimidi loved his wife, that he was not a violent man, and that he returned from Iraq after burying his wife there.

The couple's eldest daughter, then 17, found her mother in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor of their suburban San Diego home in March 2012, her body tangled in a computer cord and desk chair. She had multiple skull fractures from blunt force and died two days after the attack. A sliding glass door was shattered.

No murder weapon was found, but investigators said Alawadi, a strict Muslim, was apparently beaten with a tire iron.

Local and federal investigators suspected a hate crime until lab tests determined the threatening note was a photocopy - possibly of a note found outside the family home a week earlier by one of the couple's five children.

Prosecutors told the San Diego County jury during a two-week trial that Alhimidi was distraught over his wife's plans to leave him and had urged his children and relatives to get her to stay. Detectives found documents in Alawadi's car indicating she planned to seek a divorce, and the eldest daughter, Fatima, told investigators that her mother wanted to move to Texas to be with her sister.

After the attack, Alhimidi went to the hospital, touched his wife as she lay unconscious in bed, and apologized to her, prosecutor Kurt Mechals said. An uncle of the children who was present told authorities that Alhimidi then turned to him and said that if his wife woke up, she might try to say that he had attacked her.

The prosecutor read jurors computer messages that the woman had sent to relatives that said: "I do not love him" and "I cannot stand him."

"The relationship was in the tank. It was bad," Mechals told jurors.

The defense argued Alhimidi had no motive for killing his wife and that he loved her dearly. Attorneys said he could have stayed in Iraq after her burial but returned to the U.S. and cooperated with police until he was arrested nearly eight months after the killing.

"This man has never once raised a hand to Shaima," attorney Richard Berkon Jr. told the jury.

Alhimidi gave contradictory statements to police right after the attack because he was afraid he would be blamed for a killing he didn't commit, attorney Douglas Gilliland said.

As for the uncle who said Alhimidi confessed, Gilliland said the man always disliked his client and cultural misunderstandings clouded the truth. Muslims often apologize to loved ones who are dying for all the things that they did or didn't do for them in their lives, he said.

Alawadi left Iraq in the early 1990s after a failed Shiite uprising. She lived in Saudi Arabian refugee camps before coming to the U.S., Imam Husham Al-Husainy of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center in Dearborn, Mich., said after she was killed. Then-Iraq President Saddam Hussein's troops hanged Alawadi's uncle.

The family moved to the Detroit area and later to San Diego.

The jury deliberated less than two days before delivering a verdict that split the family. Alawadi's mother, Rehima Alhussanwi, said she was convinced Alhimidi was the killer.

"In Iraq, normally if he kills her he is supposed to be killed in the same way," she told reporters through David, the translator.

The eldest daughter, Fatima, declined to speak with reporters but her attorney, Ron Rockwell, said she felt "outraged and utterly betrayed" that the defense suggested during the trial that she may have been involved in the killing.

"Although we love our father, we also hate what we believe he did," Fatima said in a statement read by her attorney.

Alhimidi, who did not testify at trial, turned to one of his sons as he was escorted from the courtroom and asked that he seek international support to clear him of wrongdoing, according to the translator. "This was a hate crime," he said.


Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87

Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87

AP Photo
ALTERNATIVE CROP OF XLAT301 - FILE - This undated file photo of Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez is seen in an unknown location. Marquez died Thursday April 17, 2014 at his home in Mexico City. Garcia Marquez's magical realist novels and short stories exposed tens of millions of readers to Latin America's passion, superstition, violence and inequality.
  
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez crafted intoxicating fiction from the fatalism, fantasy, cruelty and heroics of the world that set his mind churning as a child growing up on Colombia's Caribbean coast.

One of the most revered and influential writers of his generation, he brought Latin America's charm and maddening contradictions to life in the minds of millions and became the best-known practitioner of "magical realism," a blending of fantastic elements into portrayals of daily life that made the extraordinary seem almost routine.

In his works, clouds of yellow butterflies precede a forbidden lover's arrival. A heroic liberator of nations dies alone, destitute and far from home. "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings," as one of his short stories is called, is spotted in a muddy courtyard.

Garcia Marquez's own epic story ended Thursday, at age 87, with his death at his home in southern Mexico City, according to two people close to the family who spoke on condition of anonymity out of respect for the family's privacy.

Known to millions simply as "Gabo," Garcia Marquez was widely seen as the Spanish language's most popular writer since Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century. His extraordinary literary celebrity spawned comparisons with Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.

His flamboyant and melancholy works - among them "Chronicle of a Death Foretold," "Love in the Time of Cholera" and "Autumn of the Patriarch" - outsold everything published in Spanish except the Bible. The epic 1967 novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude" sold more than 50 million copies in more than 25 languages.

With writers including Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe, Garcia Marquez was also an early practitioner of the literary nonfiction that would become known as New Journalism. He became an elder statesman of Latin American journalism, with magisterial works of narrative non-fiction that included the "Story of A Shipwrecked Sailor," the tale of a seaman lost on a life raft for 10 days. He was also a scion of the region's left.

Shorter pieces dealt with subjects including Venezuela's larger-than-life president, Hugo Chavez, while the book "News of a Kidnapping" vividly portrayed how cocaine traffickers led by Pablo Escobar had shred the social and moral fabric of his native Colombia, kidnapping members of its elite. In 1994, Garcia Marquez founded the Iberoamerican Foundation for New Journalism, which offers training and competitions to raise the standard of narrative and investigative journalism across Latin America.

But for so many inside and outside the region, it was his novels that became synonymous with Latin America itself.

When he accepted the Nobel prize in 1982, Garcia Marquez described the region as a "source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable."

Gerald Martin, Garcia Marquez's semi-official biographer, told The Associated Press that "One Hundred Years of Solitude" was "the first novel in which Latin Americans recognized themselves, that defined them, celebrated their passion, their intensity, their spirituality and superstition, their grand propensity for failure."
The Spanish Royal Academy, the arbiter of the language, celebrated the novel's 40th anniversary with a special edition. It had only done so for just one other book, Cervantes' "Don Quijote."

Like many Latin American writers, Garcia Marquez transcended the world of letters. He became a hero to the Latin American left as an early ally of Cuba's revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and a critic of Washington's interventions from Vietnam to Chile. His affable visage, set off by a white mustache and bushy grey eyebrows, was instantly recognizable. Unable to receive a U.S. visa for years due to his politics, he was nonetheless courted by presidents and kings. He counted Bill Clinton and Francois Mitterrand among his presidential friends.

Garcia Marquez was born in Aracataca, a small Colombian town near the Caribbean coast on March 6, 1927. He was the eldest of the 11 children of Luisa Santiaga Marquez and Gabriel Elijio Garcia, a telegraphist and a wandering homeopathic pharmacist who fathered at least four children outside of his marriage.

Just after their first son was born, his parents left him with his maternal grandparents and moved to Barranquilla, where Garcia Marquez's father opened the first of a series of homeopathic pharmacies that would invariably fail, leaving them barely able to make ends meet.

Garcia Marquez was raised for 10 years by his grandmother and his grandfather, a retired colonel who fought in the devastating 1,000-Day War that hastened Colombia's loss of the Panamanian isthmus.
His grandparents' tales would provide grist for Garcia Marquez's fiction and Aracataca became the model for Macondo, the village surrounded by banana plantations at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains where "One Hundred Years of Solitude" is set.

"I have often been told by the family that I started recounting things, stories and so on, almost since I was born," Garcia Marquez once told an interviewer. "Ever since I could speak."

Garcia Marquez's parents continued to have children, and barely made ends meet. Their first-born son was sent to a state-run boarding school just outside Bogota where he became a star student and voracious reader, favoring Hemingway, Faulkner, Dostoevsky and Kafka.

Garcia Marquez published his first piece of fiction as a student in 1947, mailing a short story to the newspaper El Espectador after its literary editor wrote that "Colombia's younger generation has nothing to offer in the way of good literature anymore."

His father insisted he study law but he dropped out, bored, and dedicated himself to journalism. The pay was atrocious and Garcia Marquez recalled his mother visiting him in Bogota and commenting in horror at his bedraggled appearance that: "I thought you were a beggar."

Garcia Marquez wrote in 1955 about a sailor, washed off the deck of a Colombian warship during a storm, who reappeared weeks later at the village church where his family was offering a Mass for his soul.

"The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor" uncovered that the destroyer was carrying cargo, the cargo was contraband, and the vessel was overloaded. The authorities didn't like it," Garcia Marquez recalled.

Several months later, while he was in Europe, dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla's government closed El Espectador.

In exile, he toured the Soviet-controlled east, he moved to Rome in 1955 to study cinema, a lifelong love. Then he moved to Paris, where he lived among intellectuals and artists exiled from the many Latin American dictatorships of the day.

Garcia Marquez returned to Colombia in 1958 to marry Mercedes Barcha, a neighbor from childhood days. They had two sons, Rodrigo, a film director, and Gonzalo, a graphic designer.

Garcia Marquez's writing was constantly informed by his leftist political views, themselves forged in large part by a 1928 military massacre near Aracataca of banana workers striking against the United Fruit Company, which later became Chiquita. He was also greatly influenced by the assassination two decades later of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, a galvanizing leftist presidential candidate.

The killing would set off the "Bogotazo," a weeklong riot that destroyed the center of Colombia's capital and which Castro, a visiting student activist, also lived through.

Garcia Marquez would sign on to the young Cuban revolution as a journalist, working in Bogota and Havana for its news agency Prensa Latina, then later as the agency's correspondent in New York.

Garcia Marquez wrote the epic "One Hundred Years of Solitude" in 18 months, living first off loans from friends and then by having his wife pawn their things, starting with the car and furniture.

By the time he finished writing in September 1966, their belongings had dwindled to an electric heater, a blender and a hairdryer. His wife then pawned those remaining items so that he could mail the manuscript to a publisher in Argentina.

"I never made a copy - that was the only one there was," he recalled.

When Garcia Marquez came home from the post office, his wife looked around and said, "We have no furniture left, we have nothing. We owe $5,000."

She need not have worried; all 8,000 copies of the first run sold out in a week.

President Clinton himself recalled in an AP interview in 2007 reading "One Hundred Years of Solitude" while in law school and not being able to put it down, not even during classes.

"I realized this man had imagined something that seemed like a fantasy but was profoundly true and profoundly wise," he said.

Garcia Marquez remained loyal to Castro even as other intellectuals lost patience with the Cuban leader's intolerance for dissent. The U.S. writer Susan Sontag accused Garcia Marquez in 2005 of complicity by association in Cuban human rights violations. But others defended him, saying Garcia Marquez had persuaded Castro to help secure freedom for political prisoners.

Garcia Marquez's politics caused the United States to deny him entry visas for years. After a 1981 run-in with Colombia's government in which he was accused of sympathizing with M-19 rebels and sending money to a Venezuelan guerrilla group, he moved to Mexico City, where he lived most of the time for the rest of this life.

A bon vivant with an impish personality, Garcia Marquez was a gracious host who would animatedly recount long stories to guests, and occasionally unleash a quick temper when he felt slighted or misrepresented by the press.

Martin, the biographer, said the writer's penchant for embellishment often extended to his recounting of stories from his own life.

From childhood on, wrote Martin, "Garcia Marquez would have trouble with other people's questioning of his veracity."

Garcia Marquez turned down offers of diplomatic posts and spurned attempts to draft him to run for Colombia's presidency, though he did get involved in behind-the-scenes peace mediation efforts between Colombia's government and leftist rebels.

In 1998, already in his 70s, Garcia Marquez fulfilled a lifelong dream, buying a majority interest in the Colombian newsmagazine Cambio with money from his Nobel award.

"I'm a journalist. I've always been a journalist," he told the AP at the time. "My books couldn't have been written if I weren't a journalist because all the material was taken from reality."

Before falling ill with lymphatic cancer in June 1999, the author contributed prodigiously to the magazine, including one article that denounced what he considered the unfair political persecution of Clinton for sexual adventures.

Garcia Marquez's memory began to fail as he entered his 80s, friends said. His last book, "Memories of My Melancholy Whores," was published in 2004.

He is survived by his wife, his two sons, Rodrigo, a film director, and Gonzalo, a graphic designer, seven brothers and sisters and one half-sister.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sub makes 2nd dive to search for Malaysian plane

Sub makes 2nd dive to search for Malaysian plane 

AP Photo
Relatives of Chinese passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines 370 walk out from a video-conference with Malaysian officials in protest at the difficulties of communications in Beijing, China, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. A robotic submarine looking for the lost Malaysian jet continued its second seabed search on Wednesday as up to 14 planes were to take to the skies for some of the final sweeps of the Indian Ocean for floating debris from the ill-fated airliner.

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- As a robotic submarine dived into the ocean to look for lost Flight 370, angry Chinese relatives stormed out of a teleconference meeting Wednesday to protest the Malaysian government for not addressing them in person.

The Bluefin 21 sub surfaced early for the second time in as many missions, this time after experiencing technical difficulties. It was sent back into the water after its data were downloaded but there's been no sign of the plane, according to the search coordinator.

As the search continued, more than 100 relatives of Chinese passengers on the plane walked out of a teleconference meeting with senior Malaysian officials, an act of defiance over a lack of contact with that country's government and for taking so long to respond to their demands.

The family members had gathered in a meeting room at a Beijing hotel where Malaysia Airlines had provided lodging and food. But they stood and filed out shortly before the call with Malaysia's civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, and others as it was about to start.

"These video conference meetings often don't work, the sound stops and it's constantly disrupted. Is that how we are going to communicate?" said Jiang Hui, one of the family members, after the walkout. "Do they need to waste our time in such a way?"

Jiang said the Malaysian government had not met demands the relatives had presented to them weeks ago in Malaysia - an apology for the way they've handled the matter along with meetings with the Malaysian government and airline officials. They also have requested to sit down with executives from Boeing and Rolls-Royce, the manufacturer of the plane and its engines.

The Boeing 777 vanished March 8 with 239 people on board while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing. Radar and satellite data show it flew far off-course for an unknown reason and would have run out of fuel over the southern Indian Ocean west of Australia.

A ship-towed device detected four signals underwater that are believed to have come from the airliner's black boxes shortly before the beacons' batteries died. The sounds helped narrow the search area to the waters where the Bluefin 21 is now operating.

The U.S. Navy's unmanned sub cut short its first mission on Monday because it exceeded its maximum operating depth of 4,500 meters (15,000 feet). Searchers moved it away from the deepest waters before redeploying the sub to scan the seabed with sonar to map a potential debris field.

On the ocean surface, up to 14 planes and 11 ships were searching a 62,000-square-kilometer (24,000-square-mile) patch of sea about 2,200 kilometers (1,400 miles) northwest of Perth on Wednesday. The surface search is expected to end soon as not a single piece of debris connected to the plane has been found.

Investigators are also waiting on test results from an oil slick found about 5,500 meters (3.4 miles) from where the underwater sounds were detected.

In addition to finding the plane itself, investigators want to recover the black boxes in hopes the cockpit voice and flight data recorders contain answers to why the plane lost communications and flew so far off-course before disappearing.


New SAT: What will those questions look like?

New SAT: What will those questions look like? 



AP Photo
Graphic shows difference between new and old SAT college entrance exam;; 2c x 4 inches; 96.3 mm x 101 mm.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Calculate the foreign exchange rate a vacationing American would pay in India. 

Estimate from a random sample the number of 18- to 34-year olds who voted for a candidate. These are sample questions from the newly redesigned SAT, which aims for more real-world applications and analysis from students.

The College Board released the sample test questions on Wednesday, offering clues to how the revised college entrance exam, taken last year by 1.7 million students, will look when it rolls out in 2016.

One of the biggest changes is that relatively obscure vocabulary words such as "punctilious" and "lachrymose" are unlikely to appear on the test. Test takers will see words more likely to be used in classrooms or in the workplace, like "synthesis."

Instead of a wide range, the math section will concentrate on areas that "matter most for college and career readiness and success," the College Board said.

The essay section is becoming optional. And it now will require a student to read a passage and explain how the author constructed an argument instead of offering the student's own point of view on a specific issue.

Other changes to the SAT, first announced by the College Board last month, include making a computer-based version of the test an option, getting rid of the extra penalty for wrong answers, limiting the use of calculators to select sections and returning to a 1,600-point scale.

Another expectation: Each test will include a passage from the U.S. founding documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, or conversations they've inspired, the College Board has said.

To highlight that, one sample question released was adapted from a 1974 speech by Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-Texas, during the impeachment hearings of President Richard Nixon. Test takers must answer questions that best describe Jordan's stance and the main rhetorical effect of a part of the passage.

In the sample question pertaining to the U.S. traveler in India, the test taker must first determine what foreign 
exchange rate the traveler paid. Then, calculate charges on a prepaid card compared to a Traveler card.

In the sample question related to a political candidate, the test taker must first determine from a table which age group had the greatest number of people reporting they had voted. Then, compare the table to another survey to determine which of four statements about voter turnout is correct.

Cynthia Schmeiser, the College Board's chief of assessment, told reporters that reasoning is still an important component of the SAT, but it will be done in "applied contexts." She said there will be commonalities between the redesigned SAT and the Common Core standards being rolled out in most states, which emphasize critical thinking in English and math in the K-12 setting.

"What we're doing here is trying to distinguish the SAT in many important ways from the current SAT and frankly from other admissions exams to provide the why and the what are the fewer more important things that students need in order to be ready for college and to succeed in college," Schmeiser said.

The College Board said the sample questions are in draft form and subject to change.

"It is our goal that every student who takes the test will be well informed and will know exactly what to expect on the day of the test," Schmeiser and College Board President David Coleman said in a letter posted online.

The SAT was last upgraded in 2005, when analogy questions were removed and the essay portion was added.

Once the predominant college admissions exam, the SAT has been overtaken in popularity by the ACT.

The ACT, which already offers an optional essay, announced last year that it would begin making computer-based testing available. It said Monday that about 4,000 high school students had taken a digital version of the ACT two days earlier as part of a pilot.

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