---- — Deputies: Zimmerman charged with assault
APOPKA, Fla. (AP) — George Zimmerman was charged Monday with assault after deputies were called to the home where he lived with his girlfriend, who claimed he pointed a shotgun at her during an argument, authorities said.
Zimmerman pushed the woman out of the house and barricaded the door with furniture, Chief Deputy Dennis Lemma said at a news conference hours after the arrest. The girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, provided deputies with a key to the home and they were able to push the door that had been barricaded.
Lemma says Zimmerman was compliant when deputies came to the house.
“The easiest way to describe it is rather passive. He’s had the opportunity to encounter this before,” he said.
Zimmerman was charged with aggravated assault with a weapon, battery and criminal mischief.
City strips mayor of most powers
TORONTO (AP) — Toronto’s City Council voted Monday to strip scandal-plagued Mayor Rob Ford of many of his powers following a heated debate in which he knocked over a female councilor.
Council members voted overwhelming to cut the 44-year-old Ford’s office budget by 60 percent and allow mayoral staff to join the deputy mayor. Ford now effectively has no legislative power as he would no longer chair the executive committee.
Ford retains his title and ability to represent Toronto at official functions.
Ford called the effort a “coup d’etat” and vowed an “outright war” in the next election.
Toronto has been abuzz with the Ford melodrama since May, when news outlets reported that he had been caught on video smoking crack cocaine.
Better forecasts, warnings spared lives in tornadoes
WASHINGTON, Ill. (AP) — When a cluster of violent thunderstorms began marching across the Midwest, forecasters were able to draw a bright line on a map showing where the worst of the weather would go.
Their uncannily accurate predictions — combined with television and radio warnings, text-message alerts and storm sirens — almost certainly saved lives as rare late-season tornadoes dropped out of a dark autumn sky. Although the storms howled through 12 states and flattened entire neighborhoods within a matter of minutes, the number of dead stood at just eight.
By Monday, another, more prosaic reason for the relatively low death toll also came to light: In the hardest-hit town, many families were in church.
“I don’t think we had one church damaged,” said Gary Manier, mayor of Washington, Ill., a community of 16,000 about 140 miles southwest of Chicago.
The tornado cut a path about an eighth of a mile wide from one side of Washington to the other and damaged or destroyed as many as 500 homes. The heavy weather also battered parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and western New York.
Young Conservatives of Texas to stage ‘catch an immigrant’ game
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A conservative student group announced Monday they will play a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Game” this week on the University of Texas at Austin, drawing condemnation from Democrats and a threat of expulsion from campus officials.
The Young Conservatives of Texas have planned the game for Wednesday. Club members will wander the campus wearing signs that say “illegal immigrant,” and students who capture them and take them to the Young Conservatives’ recruiting table will get $25 gift certificates.
“The purpose of this event is to spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration, and how it affects our everyday lives,” read a statement posted by the group’s spokesman, Lorenzo Garcia. The group did not immediately reply to several emails sent by The Associated Press.
The Texas Democratic Party pounced on the posting, condemning the game and pointing out that Garcia recently was a paid staffer with Republican Greg Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign. The Democratic party has been pushing Abbott to state his position on a Texas law that allows children brought into the country illegally by their parents to receive in-state tuition, legislation called the Texas DREAM Act.
“While Abbott has said he doesn’t support the DREAM Act as it is, he refuses to say what he would change and if he supports it at all,” state Democratic chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. “He must come out and immediately denounce Wednesday’s event. This style of hatred and fear is not the type of leadership Texas deserves.”
Cheney disagreement over gay marriage spills into public
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife stepped into a sibling squabble Monday after their daughters became involved in a public feud over gay marriage that began on “Fox News Sunday” and soon spread to social media.
Discussing her U.S. Senate campaign on the talk show, Liz Cheney restated her support for the “traditional definition” of marriage. She added that states should be free to decide for themselves whether to allow or prohibit same-sex unions.
Her sister, Mary Cheney, who is married to a woman, shot back on Facebook: “You’re just wrong.”
Things got testy enough that their parents were compelled to address the matter.
“This is an issue we have dealt with privately for many years, and we are pained to see it become public,” read a statement distributed by Dick and Lynne Cheney.
Democratic groups take steps to promote Clinton campaign
WASHINGTON (AP) — As Hillary Rodham Clinton privately weighs a second White House run, pieces of the Democratic establishment are beginning to fall into place publicly to help her possible candidacy.
Several super political action committees are collectively acting as an early de facto campaign organization to ensure Clinton is ready to compete vigorously if she decides to try again to become the first female president.
They’re building a network without her direct consent. But she’s not objecting either, and some Democrats are interpreting that as encouragement to push forward in anticipation of a campaign.
“There’s a lot of energy out there and it would be a mistake not to channel and use it as an opportunity to organize,” said Craig Smith, an adviser to Ready for Hillary.
The super PAC American Bridge 21st Century has launched Correct the Record, a group staffed by former Clinton aides who intend to defend the former secretary of state and other potential 2016 candidates against Republican critics. Priorities USA Action, which ran searing ads against rivals of President Barack Obama to support his re-election, is discussing bringing onboard a former White House chief of staff under her husband.
Syrians flee gov’t offensive to find refuge
ARSAL, Lebanon (AP) — The two sisters squeezed the hands of their blind grandfather for nearly seven hours as they made the perilous nighttime trek by foot along rugged mountain roads subjected to sporadic shelling before finally crossing the Syrian border to safety in Lebanon.
Mehrez Humeidan and his granddaughters Ikram and Inaam were among at least 6,000 Syrians that the United Nations says have poured into Lebanon over the past three days. The refugees are escaping a government offensive that began Friday and aims to dislodge rebels from the mountainous Qalamoun region, which runs north from Damascus along the frontier.
Qalamoun holds strategic value for both sides in Syria’s civil war. It serves as a key supply route from Lebanon to opposition forces around Damascus, and it is home to the main north-south highway that links the capital to government strongholds along the Mediterranean coast.
The offensive is part of a broader government push that has seen Assad’s forces seize the momentum in the civil war, capturing a string of opposition-held suburbs south of Damascus as well as two towns and a military base around the northern city of Aleppo.
The battlefield gains have strengthened the government’s hand as the world community pushes for peace talks in Geneva.
Investors remain confident stocks can keep rallying, although the rise could slow in 2014
NEW YORK (AP) — Is the stock market due for a pullback?
The Dow Jones industrial average has surged 900 points since early October and crossed the 16,000-point threshold Monday. IPOs are hot again. Small investors, stirred from their post-recession daze, are coming back to stocks. And it’s been more than two years since the market has had a significant slump.
Those trends have raised concerns of a stock bubble. They shouldn’t, money managers say, because even with the broader market’s 26 percent jump this year, stocks aren’t overpriced yet.
“Stocks are not cheap, but that does not mean that the stock market is expensive,” says Russ Koesterich, chief investment strategist with Blackrock.
The ratio of stock prices to projected profits for companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index is 15, according to data from FactSet. That’s slightly below the average of 16.2 over the last 15 years and far below the peak of 25 in late 1990s and early 2000s.