EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 29, 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — UN Security Council votes unanimously to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Friday night to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, a landmark decision aimed at taking poison gas off the battlefield in the escalating 2 1/2-year conflict.

The vote after two weeks of intense negotiations marked a major breakthrough in the paralysis that has gripped the council since the Syrian uprising began. Russia and China previously vetoed three Western-backed resolutions pressuring President Bashar Assad's regime to end the violence.

"Today's historic resolution is the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the council immediately after the vote, but he and others stressed that much more needs to be done to stop the fighting that has left more 100,000 dead.

"A red light for one form of weapons does not mean a green light for others," the U.N. chief said. "This is not a license to kill with conventional weapons."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the "strong, enforceable, precedent-setting" resolution shows that diplomacy can be so powerful "that it can peacefully defuse the worst weapons of war."

Historic phone call, then optimism as US and Iran work to resolve nuclear dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Iranian president, his visit to the U.S. nearing its end, makes contact with the White House. As his car inches through New York's snarled traffic, he hears Barack Obama's voice on the phone as the U.S. president sits at his desk in the Oval Office.

Fifteen minutes later, the two men say goodbye in each other's language.

And with that, a generation-long rift between the U.S. and Iran is that much closer to being bridged.

Iranians awoke yesterday to learn that their president, Hassan Rouhani, had spoken directly to Obama, breaking through a barrier that had left American and Iranian presidents divorced from such contact for 34 years. The two presidents pledged to resolve concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions, which have isolated Iranians from the global community and led to crippling economic sanctions.

The appetite for serious talks having been tested at a presidential level, the focus turns to negotiations among foreign ministers and other officials from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, who together will chart a path forward, a senior Obama administration official said. The group wants Iran to present a more detailed proposal before or at the next round of negotiations, scheduled in Geneva on Oct. 15-16, another U.S. official said.

Shutdown threat puts heat on House GOP as tea party urges continuing fight over 'Obamacare'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Heat is building on balkanized Republicans, who are convening the House this weekend in hopes of preventing a government shutdown but remain under tea party pressure to battle on and use a must-do funding bill to derail all or part of President Barack Obama's health care law.

The weekend session comes after the Senate on Friday sent back to the House legislation to keep the government's doors open until Nov. 15, but only after Democrats stripped from the bill a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act, also called "Obamacare."

Congress faces a midnight deadline tomorrow. Failure to pass a short-term funding bill by then would mean the first partial government shutdown in almost 20 years.

The Senate's 54-44 vote was strictly along party lines in favor of the bill, which would prevent a shutdown of nonessential government services.

That tally followed a 79-19 vote to cut off a filibuster by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, which exposed a rift among Republicans eager to prevent a shutdown and those, like Cruz, who seem willing to risk one over derailing the health care law.

SPIN METER: Republicans, Democrats deploying, violent over-the-top rhetoric in budget fights

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ask top Democrats, and they'll say Republicans are acting like terrorists, arsonists and people with bombs strapped to their chests. Ask some Republicans about President Barack Obama's health care law, and they'll draw comparisons to the Nazis or the return of runaway slaves and declare that the law will cause the untimely death of vulnerable Americans.

Even for a town accustomed to hyperbole, the spat over spending, borrowing and health-care reform has attracted more than its share of over-the-top rhetoric.

While most Americans may tune it out, it's a good bet the violence-tinged accusations won't make it any easier for the two sides to come together on critical issues of spending and borrowing.

Take Rep. Michelle Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, who warned on the House floor earlier this year what can happen if Republicans don't overturn "Obamacare," the president's health care law.

"Let's repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens," Bachmann said.

Shutdown impact: Travelers, homebuyers among the first to lose, effects would grow over time

Top Kenyan official says military caused mall collapse, government urges patience with probe

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya's military caused the collapse of three floors of the Westgate Mall in the deadly terrorist siege, a top-ranking official disclosed Friday, while the government urged patience with the pace of an investigation that has left key questions unanswered.

Seven days after 67 people were killed in the attack on the upscale shopping center, there is still no clear word on the fate of dozens who have been reported missing and no details on the terrorists who carried it out.

The account of the roof collapse raises the possibility that the military may have caused the death of hostages in its rescue attempt. An undisclosed number of people are feared to be buried in the rubble.

The official said autopsies will be conducted on any bodies found to determine the cause of death — from the militants or the structural collapse. The high-ranking government official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge sensitive information.

The official also confirmed that Kenyan troops fired rocket-propelled grenades inside the mall, but would not say what caused the floors to collapse, if the action was intentional, or if it was an accident.

International panel confirms man-made warming, says worst heat, higher seas still to come

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Top scientists have a better idea of how global warming will shape the 21st century: In a new report, they predict sea levels will be much higher than previously thought and pinpoint how dangerously hot it's likely to get.

In its most strongly worded report yet, an international climate panel said it was more confident than ever that global warming is a man-made problem and likely to get worse. The report was welcomed by the Obama administration and environmental advocates who said it made a strong and urgent case for government action, while skeptics scoffed at it.

"There is something in this report to worry everyone," said Chris Field, a Carnegie Institution scientist who is a leader of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change but wasn't involved in the report released Friday.

Without any substantial changes, he said the world is now on track for summers at the end of the century that are hotter than current records, sea levels that are much higher, deluges that are stronger and more severe droughts.

The Nobel Prize-winning panel's report called the warming of the planet since 1950 "unequivocal" and "unprecedented" and blamed increases in heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

NJ governor's planned appeal means judge's ruling on same-sex marriage isn't the last word

A judge's ruling Friday that New Jersey must allow gay couples to marry will not be the last word on the issue after Gov. Chris Christie's administration said it would appeal to a higher court.

The judge, Mary Jacobson, sided with gay and lesbian couples and a gay rights group that argued the state government is violating New Jersey's constitution by denying federal benefits to the couples by not letting them marry. She said the state must allow gay couples to wed starting Oct. 21.

The ruling was the first of its kind in any state court relying on a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down key parts of a law that blocked the federal government from granting benefits to gay couples.

"Every day that the state does not allow same-sex couples to marry, plaintiffs are being harmed," Jacobson wrote, citing specifically same-sex couples who include a federal employee, those who want to use the federal Family Medical Leave Act or those who file joint federal tax returns.

Whatever course Christie chose had the potential of putting the Republican governor in a tough spot politically.

Chinese doctor creates new nose on man's forehead, ahead of unusual transplant operation

BEIJING (AP) — A surgeon in China says he has constructed an extra nose out of a man's rib cartilage and implanted it under the skin of his forehead to prepare for a transplant in probably the first operation of its kind.

Surgeon Guo Zhihui at Fujian Medical University Union Hospital in China's southeastern province of Fujian spent nine months cultivating the graft for a 22-year-old man whose nose was damaged.

The striking images of the implant — with the nostril section facing diagonally upward on the left side of the man's forehead — drew widespread publicity after they began to circulate in Chinese media this week. Guo plans to cut the nose from the forehead while leaving a section of skin still connected, and then rotate and graft it into position in a later operation.

"We were just interested in helping the man and did not expect it would stir up this much attention," Guo said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press.

Surgeons previously have used cartilage to help rebuild noses in their proper position and are experimenting with growing new ones from stem cells on other parts of the body, such as a forearm. But this was the first known case of building a nose on a forehead.

Albuquerque set to say goodbye to 'Breaking Bad' as NM city continues to see tourism spike

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The southwestern New Mexico city that's played home to "Breaking Bad" is preparing for the end, with the Emmy-award winning series airing its last episode today.

As the AMC finale approaches, Albuquerque is planning on celebrating with watch parties and red carpet casting events in a city still benefiting from a tourism boost thanks to the drama's popularity.

Despite the show's dark themes of drug trafficking and violence, tourism officials say "Breaking Bad" highlighted neighborhoods around the city and gave viewers a sense of Albuquerque. The show displayed the city's downtown Route 66, its various stores and restaurants, and even took audiences to Latino barrios and nearby American Indian Pueblos — places rarely seen in Hollywood.

"Before the show, Albuquerque didn't have an image," said Ann Lerner, Albuquerque's film liaison. "When I started this job in 2003 and I mentioned New Mexico, people would say, 'Oh, I love Santa Fe.' No one thought of Albuquerque."

That has changed in the five seasons that "Breaking Bad" has aired on AMC, growing its reputation and buzz as Netflix users raced to catch up on previous episodes. Since then, trolley and private limo tours of scenes from the show have sold out and created waiting lists that go on for weeks. A city-run website detailing locations of scenes — from seedy motels to the one-time headquarters of a now deceased drug lord — has seen tens of thousands of visitors.