---- — People gather across United States in ‘Justice for Trayvon’ rallies
ATLANTA (AP) — One week after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, people gathered for nationwide rallies to press for changes to self-defense laws and for federal civil rights charges against the former neighborhood watch leader.
The Florida case has become a flashpoint in separate but converging national debates over self-defense, guns, and race relations. Zimmerman, who successfully claimed that he was protecting himself when he shot Martin, identifies himself as Hispanic. Martin was black.
“It’s personal,” said Cincinnati resident Chris Donegan, whose 11-year-old son wore a black hoodie to the rally, as Martin did when he died. “Anybody who is black with kids, Trayvon Martin became our son.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network organized the “Justice for Trayvon” rallies and vigils outside federal buildings in at least 101 cities: from New York and Los Angeles to Wichita, Kan., and Atlanta, where people stood in the rain at the base of the federal courthouse, with traffic blocked on surrounding downtown streets.
Chants rang out across the rallies. “Justice! Justice! Justice! ... Now! Now! Now!” ‘‘We won’t forget.” ‘‘No justice! No peace!” Many also sang hymns, prayed and held hands.
After ambitious inaugural, Obama saddled by political realities in 2nd term
WASHINGTON (AP) — Six months ago, President Barack Obama stood on the Capitol steps and offered a soaring liberal vision for his second term. Buoyed by re-election, he said the nation must pursue without delay steps to protect children from gun violence, tackle climate change and overhaul fractured immigration laws.
But the intervening months have showcased the political limits of Obama’s ambitions. The result has been an uneven and sometimes disjointed first half of what arguably could be the most important year of the remainder of his presidency.
Legislative victories have been scarce, with Obama’s gun control measures vanquished on Capitol Hill, slim prospects for a grand deficit reduction deal and an uncertain future for a White House-backed immigration overhaul.
Domestic entanglements and foreign policy crises also have thrown the White House off course and into a defensive crouch. Obama’s health care law is nearing a critical phase that will determine its success and a fresh budget battle is looming as the government approaches its borrowing limit.
Obama’s top aides insist they came into the year clear-eyed about the potential pitfalls, particularly on Capitol Hill, where Republicans run the House.
Iraqi officials: At least 46 killed in wave of Baghdad car bombings
BAGHDAD (AP) — A coordinated wave of seven car bombs tore through bustling commercial streets Saturday night in Shiite areas of Baghdad, part of a relentless wave of violence that killed at least 46 inside and outside the capital.
The car bombs detonated after the iftar meal that breaks the daily fast of the holy month of Ramadan. Many people head out to shop or relax in coffee shops in the cooler evenings after fasting ends.
Bombings and other attacks have now killed more than 250 people since the start of Ramadan on July 10, according to an Associated Press count. The violence is a continuation of a surge of bloodshed that has rocked Iraq for months, reviving fears of a return to the widespread sectarian killings that pushed the country to the brink of civil war after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, coordinated bombings against Shiites are a favorite tactic of al-Qaida’s Iraq branch.
Saturday’s blasts began with an explosion in a busy shopping street that shook buildings in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Karrada. Police say that attack killed nine and wounded 17, and left several shops and food stalls damaged.
Latin American youths converge on Rio, drawn to pope with common touch
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Thousands of young Roman Catholics from around the Americas are converging on Rio de Janeiro, taking dayslong bus trips or expensive plane flights that were paid for by baking cookies and holding garage sales, running raffles and bingo tournaments and even begging for coins in public plazas.
Some of the poorest traveled from so-called “misery villages” in Argentina’s capital, thanks to donations from the Buenos Aires archdiocese. Their agenda at World Youth Day includes meeting with other disadvantaged youngsters in Manguinhos, a favela Pope Francis plans to visit, and sharing stories about Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the subway-riding Argentine Jesuit they now affectionately call their “slum pope.”
Road trips can be fun, but many have been expressing more profound emotions, excited by the changes they see in the church since Francis was elected in March. His first months as pope have already renewed their faith, many say, by showing how church leaders can get closer to their people and relate to their real-world problems with humor and a common touch.
“Like anyone else, there have been times when I haven’t had this faith at 100 percent. Now I have more faith than ever, very high. I have my heart completely with God and no one can take me away from there,” said Valentina Godoy, who traveled from Santiago, Chile, and shared her feelings from Brazil on a video her local church group posted on YouTube.
Francis joked when he first emerged on the balcony over St. Peters Square that the cardinals had chosen a pope “from the end of the world.” But for many Catholics on this side of the Atlantic, he’s not only the first Latin American pope. With his history of community outreach, many younger Catholics are saying that he’s the first pope they can relate to in a more personal way.
George P. Bush shuns idea his name, Hispanic heritage can save GOP in Texas
FRISCO, Texas (AP) — On a recent evening, George P. Bush was telling a packed room of wealthy North Texans how he got his start in politics. It was May 1979 and the then 3-year-old was in a Houston park, clutching a balloon and watching his grandfather, George H.W. Bush, announce his first campaign for president.
“It was my first memory,” Bush recalled. “I was wearing a George P. Bush, er, uh, George H.W. Bush for President T-shirt.”
Drowned out temporarily by laughter, Bush insisted it wasn’t a Freudian flub. An aide approached a reporter scribbling notes and jokingly commanded: “Stop writing!”
The light moment underscores the dilemma of the latest scion of an American political dynasty.
How does Bush keep his family’s powerful past from overwhelming his present? How can he ease into his first campaign for elected office amid lofty expectations that he will help save a Republican Party in Texas that’s endangered by the state’s booming Latino population?
Palestinian officials say Kerry guaranteed that 1967 borders are basis for new talks
JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to resume peace talks with Israel only after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave him a letter guaranteeing that the basis of the negotiations will be Israel’s pre-1967 borders, two senior Palestinian officials said Saturday.
A Western official, however, later denied that the ‘67 lines would be the basis of negotiations.
The Palestinian officials, both of whom are close to the Palestinian leader and privy to internal discussions, said the U.S. letter also stipulated that both sides are to refrain from taking any steps that would jeopardize the outcome of the talks. Israel is not to issue new tenders for Jewish settlements in the West Bank, while the Palestinians are not to pursue diplomatic action against Israel at any international organizations, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media.
“The talks with Kerry were about to collapse, and the letter came as a lifeline in the last-minute bargaining,” one of the Palestinian officials said.
U.S. officials have said in the past that Kerry would reiterate standing American positions on the goals for renewed talks, including that a Palestinian state should be negotiated on the basis of Israel’s borders before the 1967 Mideast war, when Israel captured the Gaza Strip, West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Witness: Woman killed while riding roller coaster at Six Flags ‘didn’t feel safe’
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Investigators will try to determine if a woman who died while riding a roller coaster at a Six Flags amusement park in North Texas fell from the ride after some witnesses said she wasn’t properly secured.
The accident happened just after 6:30 p.m. Friday at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington. Park spokeswoman Sharon Parker confirmed that a woman died while riding the Texas Giant roller coaster — dubbed the tallest steel-hybrid coaster in the world — but did not specify how she was killed. Witnesses told area media outlets the woman fell.
“We are committed to determining the cause of this tragic accident and will utilize every resource throughout this process,” Parker said in a statement Saturday. “It would be a disservice to the family to speculate regarding what transpired.”
Arlington police Sgt. Christopher Cook, the department spokesman, referred all questions to Parker. Messages left for Parker by The Associated Press were not returned.
Carmen Brown told The Dallas Morning News that she was waiting in line to get on the ride when the accident happened and witnessed the woman being strapped in.
Warner Bros.: Superman is coming back and his co-star will be Batman
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Superman is coming back and he’ll have a caped co-star.
“Man of Steel” director Zack Snyder announced Saturday at San Diego’s Comic-Con that he was making another Superman film and that it will include Batman — the first time the two superheroes will be united on the big screen.
He declined to reveal many details, saying the script is just being written. He then invited an actor onstage to read a passage to hint at the story line.
“I am the man who beat you,” read Harry Lennox, before an image of the Superman logo, backed by the Batman symbol, flashed on the screen.
Warner Bros. then confirmed the first-ever pairing in a statement.