EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 23, 2013

Around the World and Nation


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Iran nuclear talks said to be down to fine print stage but final differences proving tough

GENEVA (AP) — An Iran nuclear deal within reach, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and five other foreign ministers focused Saturday on the fine print of a draft agreement meant to satisfy not only the other side, but also to placate powerful domestic forces that fear giving too much for too little in return.

Diplomats refused to spell out details of the talks, held in a five-star Geneva hotel. But comments from both sides suggested negotiations focused on detailed wording that could be key in shaping an agreement that both sides could live with.

Even though diplomats were said to be close to a deal after four days of talks, they also warned against expectations that a final agreement was imminent due to the complexity of the issues and the stakes for all sides.

The goal is to hammer out an agreement to freeze Iran’s nuclear program for six months, while offering the Iranians limited relief from crippling economic sanctions. If the interim deal holds, the parties would negotiate final-stage agreements to ensure Iran does not build nuclear weapons.

Only then would the most crippling sanctions on Iranian oil sales and financial transactions be rolled back.

After JFK: Lyndon Johnson quickly assumed power, but VP succession is not always smooth

NEW YORK (AP) — As President John F. Kennedy lay dying 50 years ago at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Vice President Lyndon Johnson was hurried into a small room in Minor Medicine, where he stood silently against a wall. After a wait of some 35 minutes, presidential aide Kenneth O’Donnell entered and approached Johnson, who had been two cars behind Kennedy when the shots were fired in Dealey Plaza.

“He’s gone,” O’Donnell told him.

Almost instantly, onlookers would recall, LBJ’s drooping features hardened into his “deciding expression.” Johnson’s wife, Lady Bird, would describe his look as “almost a graven image of a face carved in bronze.” Johnson, a vice president so estranged from the White House that he feared for his job, was now the most powerful man in the country.

“This was a day not only when a president was killed, but a president was created,” says Johnson biographer Robert Caro.

Johnson was the last of eight vice presidents to succeed a president who died in office. Some became major presidents in their own right, others were soon forgotten, and at least one was lucky to remain in office.

Column: On a brutally grim day 50 years ago the nation grieves and the NFL plays on

Americans grieved in front of their television sets on a brutally grim Sunday afternoon 50 years ago as a horse-drawn caisson took the body of President Kennedy from the White House to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

In Dallas, a nightclub operator named Jack Ruby further stunned the nation that day by shooting Lee Harvey Oswald to death in black-and-white images broadcast across the country.

And in seven U.S. cities, men put on their shoulder pads, strapped on their helmets and took the field to play games that suddenly didn’t seem so fun anymore.

As unimaginable as it might seem today — and did seem to many even then — the NFL played on despite the assassination of a president just two days earlier.

“Everyone has a different way of paying respects,” Commissioner Pete Rozelle said that day at Yankee Stadium. “I went to church today and I imagine many of the people at the game here did, too. I cannot feel that playing the game was disrespectful, nor can I feel that I have made a mistake.”

Is it too late for justice — and arrests — in unsolved rapes in impoverished town?

ROBBINS, Ill. (AP) — The rape evidence was stored in the police department’s musty basement: brown paper shopping bags, stuffed with sneakers, bras and underpants, jammed on metal shelves. Scattered blood vials and swabs covered with dust and mold — an inventory amassed over more than 25 years.

Cara Smith, a Cook County sheriff’s aide, knew something was terribly wrong the moment she saw the jumble, which included 176 rape kits dating back to 1986. Many of these crimes had long been forgotten by everyone except the victims.

Smith began digging into the cases and ultimately came to a disturbing conclusion: In most of the reported rapes, Robbins police had seemingly conducted little or no follow-up despite having crime lab results. And in nearly a third of the cases, police hadn’t even submitted physical evidence for analysis.

Those findings posed one daunting question: Is there any way to right the wrongs that, in some cases, go back a generation?

The answer will come from the Cook County sheriff’s office, where Smith and investigators have devoted much of the year to reviewing the cases, poring over records, interviewing victims, trying to put together puzzles even when key pieces are missing.

Powerful storm system blasts U.S. West; several states left drenched, 8 killed

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A powerful storm system that has caused hundreds of accidents across the Western U.S. has marched eastward with predictions of widespread snow, freezing temperatures and gusty winds.

The fierce weather has caused at least eight deaths and prompted advisories Saturday afternoon in New Mexico and Texas.

As thick, gray clouds covered the Southwest, forecasters said the storm would sweep across the South and toward the Atlantic coast next week, causing problems for holiday travelers.

Joe Harris, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the “Nordic outbreak” will “produce a mixed bag of wily weather that will end up impacting much of the nation.”

In New Mexico, authorities and residents braced for the second hit of a one-two punch that had already blanketed parts of the state with snow and freezing rain and caused a rollover accident that killed a 4-year-old girl in the eastern part of the state.

Activists say government warplanes strike rebel-held areas in northern Syria, killing 44

BEIRUT (AP) — A string of government airstrikes on rebel-held areas in northern Syria killed at least 44 people Saturday, activists said, as al-Qaida-linked rebels captured one of the country’s major oil fields in the east.

An attack on the rebel-held town of al-Bab near the northern city of Aleppo was the deadliest of the three raids, killing 22 people, said Rami Abdurrahman, the director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Fighter jets also bombed two rebel-held districts of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. Government warplanes missed their target in the Halwaniyeh neighborhood and sent bombs into a crowded vegetable market, killing 15 people, Abdurrahman said. Seven people died in a third airstrike in the Karam el-Beik district, according to the activist group. The Observatory has been documenting the conflict by relying on a network of activists on the ground.

Air power has been Syrian President Bashar Assad’s greatest advantage in the civil war. Over the past year, his forces have exploited it in a wide-ranging offensive to push back rebel gains in the north and around the capital, Damascus.

Syrian state television confirmed the fighter jets were in the north, but said they targeted “gatherings of terrorists” in Aleppo, killing a large number of them. Syrian state media routinely refers to rebels fighting to topple Assad’s government as terrorists.

Modest deal on climate targets break deadlock at UN talks

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Avoiding a last-minute breakdown, annual U.N. climate talks limped forward Saturday with a modest set of decisions meant to pave the way for a new pact to fight global warming.

More than 190 countries agreed in Warsaw to start preparing “contributions” for the new deal, which is supposed to be adopted in 2015.

That term was adopted after China and India objected to the word “commitments” in a standoff with the U.S. and other developed countries.

The fast-growing economies say they are still developing countries and shouldn’t have to take on as strict commitments to cut carbon emissions as industrialized nations.

“In the nick of time, negotiators in Warsaw delivered just enough to keep things moving,” said Jennifer Morgan, of the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank.

The decision to allow phone calls on planes will eventually be decided by individual airlines

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Communications Commission might be ready to permit cellphone calls in flight. But what about the airlines?

Old concerns about electronics being a danger to airplane navigation have been debunked. And airlines could make some extra cash charging passengers to call a loved one from 35,000 feet. But that extra money might not be worth the backlash from fliers who view overly chatty neighbors as another inconvenience to go along with smaller seats and stuffed overhead bins.

“Common courtesy goes out the window when people step in that metal tube,” says James Patrick II, a frequent flier from Newnan, Ga. “You think the debates and fistfights over reclining the seat back was bad. Wait until guys start slugging it out over someone talking too loud on the phone.”

That’s one of the reasons the country’s largest flight attendant union has come out against allowing calls in flight. The FCC is proposing to lift an existing ban, and airlines would have to decide whether to let passengers make calls. The ban would remain in effect during takeoff and landing.

Delta Air Lines is the only major airline to explicitly state that voice calls won’t be allowed on its flights, even if the FCC allows it. Delta says years of feedback from customers show “the overwhelming sentiment” is to continue prohibiting calls.

Maine Zumba instructor at center of prostitution scandal is released from jail after 6 months

ALFRED, Maine (AP) — The Zumba instructor who ran a prostitution business in which she videotaped unsuspecting clients so her business partner could watch from his office 100 miles away has been released from jail, bringing to a close a scandal featuring sex videos, adultery and a client list with more than 100 names.

Alexis Wright left the York County Jail at about 7:45 a.m. Saturday after serving nearly six months of a 10-month sentence for engaging in and promoting prostitution, as well as several welfare- and tax-related charges. Her jail term was cut short because of good behavior and participation in a work program.

Wearing a gray suit and clutching a stack of folders, Wright strode out of the jail and into the waiting SUV driven by her husband, Jason Trowbridge.

“I have no comment,” she said.

The scandal erupted a year ago in Kennebunk, a small town known for its beaches, New England charm and proximity to former President George H.W. Bush’s seaside estate in Kennebunkport.

‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” expected to earn $150M over the weekend

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is a scorching hit at the box office.

Lionsgate has released early numbers on what’s expected to be one of the biggest November openings ever. “Catching Fire” has grossed $70.5 million domestically and $64 million internationally, bringing its total to $135 million, the studio reported Saturday.

Numbers were from Friday’s opening day, but includes some scattered preview shows on Thursday night. The sequel gained $25.3 million from Thursday screenings.

“Catching Fire” is expected to bump two-week champ “Thor: The Dark World” out of the No. 1 slot. Full weekend ticket sales estimates at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak, will be released Sunday. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

Totals for “Catching Fire” are expected to reach $150 million domestically over the weekend, though some reports estimated a $170 million opener.