WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court left little doubt during last week's marathon arguments over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul that it has scant faith in Congress' ability to get anything done.
The views about Congress underlay questions from justices who appear to be on both sides of the argument over the constitutionality of the law's key provision, the individual insurance requirement, as well as whether the entire law should be thrown out if the mandate is struck down.
The comments were particularly striking from the conservative justices who have called on unelected judges to show deference to the actions of elected officials.
Humor can be fumbled easily during campaign
WASHINGTON (AP) — Mitt Romney hit an off note when he told a "humorous" story about his dad shutting down a factory.
Robert De Niro managed to get both Newt Gingrich and the Obama campaign riled up when he joked at an Obama fundraiser that America isn't ready for a white first lady.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, still nursing wounds from his failed presidential campaign, did himself a world of good with his self-deprecating jokes at a recent Washington dinner.
Done right, humor can be a huge asset for a politician. But it is fumbled easily in the overheated environment of a political campaign.
That may be why Romney's aides sent him to the "The Tonight Show" this past week with these instructions: "Don't try and be funny."
Syria says army will not be first to lay down arms
BEIRUT (AP) — Syria rejected international envoy Kofi Annan's call for the regime to halt violence first just days after the government agreed to a cease-fire plan. A senior official declared victory over the opposition.
It was the government's first response to an appeal by Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy, to stop military operations first as "the stronger party" in a "gesture of good faith" to the lightly armed opposition. Annan brokered the agreement aimed at stopping the bloodshed and Assad agreed to it on Monday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi said the government will not pull tanks and troops from towns and cities engulfed by unrest before life returns to normal there.
Ireland in revolt over new property tax
DUBLIN (AP) — Debt-mired Ireland is facing a revolt over its new property tax.
The government said less than half of the country's 1.6 million households paid the charge by Saturday's deadline to avoid penalties. And about 5,000 marched in protest against the annual conference of Prime Minister Enda Kenny's Fine Gael party.
Emotions ran raw as police backed by officers on horseback stopped demonstrators from entering the Dublin Convention Centre. Many protesters booed and heckled passers-by who were wearing Fine Gael conference passes, some screaming vulgar insults in their faces.
Protesters jostled with police as they tried to block the way of Fine Gael activists using a back entrance. One man mistakenly identified as the government minister responsible for collecting the tax had to be rescued by police from an angry scrum.
Kenny said his government had no choice, but to impose the new charge as part of the nation's efforts to emerge from an international bailout. Ireland already has endured five emergency budgets in four years and expects to face at least four more years of austerity.
Stricken cruise ship repaired after 24 hours adrift, heading to Malaysia from Philippines
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A cruise ship with 1,000 people on board that had drifted for 24 hours after being disabled by a fire was headed toward Malaysia following repairs, the Philippine coast guard said Saturday.
The Azamara Quest that had embarked on a 17-day Southeast Asian cruise was left drifting in southern Philippine waters after a fire broke out Friday night. The flames engulfed one of the ship's engine rooms but were quickly extinguished, the ship's operator said. Five crew members suffered smoke inhalation, including one who was seriously injured and needed hospital care.
The ship informed the coast guard late Saturday that its power and propulsion had been restored and it was moving slowly toward Sandakan, its next destination after it left Manila Thursday, spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Algier Ricafrente said.
Azamara Club Cruises, the ship's operator, said in a statement Saturday night that the ship was sailing at a top speed of only 6 knots (11 kilometers or 6.9 miles per hour) and was expected to reach Sandakan "within 24 to 48 hours."
It said company president Larry Pimentel will meet personally with the passengers and crew in Sandakan.