---- — Karzi says he backs security pact
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — President Hamid Karzai urged tribal elders Thursday to approve a security pact with Washington that could keep thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan until 2024, but he added a wrinkle that he prefers his successor sign the document after elections next April.
Karzai’s move could be an attempt to avoid taking personal responsibility for an agreement that many Afghans see as selling out to foreign interests.
His remarks to the 2,500 members of the consultative council known as the Loya Jirga came as President Barack Obama made a personal plea for quick passage of the agreement in a letter promising to respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty and only raid homes when U.S. lives are at risk.
The Loya Jirga is widely expected to approve the agreement, and Karzai’s remarks could be seen as last-minute move to force the gathering to ask him to sign the long-delayed accord — thus shifting the responsibility for the deal away from him to the elders.
The White House urged that the security pact be signed by the end of the year, with spokesman Josh Earnest saying a failure to finalize an agreement in the coming weeks “would prevent the United States and our allies from being able to plan for a post-2014 presence” in Afghanistan.
Dems curb blocks of all non-Supreme Court nominees
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sweeping aside a century of precedent, Democrats took a chunk out of the Senate’s hallowed filibuster tradition on Thursday and cleared the way for speedy confirmation of controversial appointments made by President Barack Obama and chief executives in the future.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who orchestrated the change, called the 52-48 vote a blow against gridlock. Republicans warned Democrats will eventually regret their actions once political fortunes are reversed and they can no longer block appointments made by a GOP president.
At the White House, Obama welcomed the shift. “The gears of government have got to work,” he said, and he declared that Republicans had increasingly used existing rules “as a reckless and relentless tool to grind all business to a halt.”
But Republicans warned of a power grab by Democrats, some predicting that worse was yet to come. “This drastic move sets a dangerous precedent that could later be expanded to speed passage of expansive and controversial legislation,” said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama.
The day’s change involved presidential appointees, not legislation — and not Supreme Court nominees.
6,000 Ariz. child abuse reports were never investigated
PHOENIX (AP) — About 6,000 cases of suspected child abuse or neglect that were reported to a statewide Arizona hotline over the past four years were never investigated, officials disclosed Thursday, calling it reason for “grave alarm.”
A team at Arizona’s Child Protective Services agency improperly designated the cases “N.I.” — meaning “Not Investigated” — to help manage the heavy workload and focus on the most severe cases, said Clarence Carter, chief of the state’s child welfare system.
Under state law, all reports generated via the hotline must be investigated, Carter said.
All the cases will be reviewed, officials said. At least 125 cases already have been identified in which children were later alleged to have been abused, they said.
UK police: 3 freed after being held for at least 30 years
LONDON (AP) — Three women have been freed after spending 30 years held captive in a south London home, including one woman believed to have spent her entire life in domestic slavery, police said Thursday.
London’s Metropolitan Police announced the rescues after two people — a man and a woman, both 67 — were arrested early Thursday on suspicion of forced labor and domestic servitude.
The arrests were part of a slavery investigation launched after one of the women contacted a charity last month to say she was being held against her will along with two others.
The charity went to the police, and the women — a 69-year-old Malaysian, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 30-year-old Briton — were freed on Oct. 25.
Kevin Hyland, head of the Metropolitan Police’s human trafficking unit, said the women are “highly traumatized,” having had “no real exposure to the outside world” for the past 30 years.
Solemn events to mark JFK’s assassination planned in Dallas, Boston, Washington
DALLAS (AP) — Loose gatherings of the curious and conspiracy-minded at Dallas’ Dealey Plaza have marked past anniversaries of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, featuring everything from makeshift memorials to marching drummers to discussions about who else might have been in on the killing.
But in the place where the president’s motorcade passed through and shots rang out on Nov. 22, 1963, a solemn ceremony on the 50th anniversary of his death designed to avoid such distractions will include brief remarks by the mayor and the tolling of church bells.
It’s an approach that will be mirrored Friday in Boston, where the JFK Library and Museum will open a small exhibit of never-before-displayed items from Kennedy’s state funeral and host a musical tribute that will be closed to the public, and in Washington, where President Barack Obama will meet privately at the White House with leaders and volunteers from the Kennedy-established Peace Corps program.
“It’s 50 years later and it’s also a moment to look forward to the future,” said Thomas Putnam, executive director of the library, which usually doesn’t observe the anniversary. “We want our tone to be respectful and we want it to have a certain reverence, but we also want it to be hopeful and end on this notion of what JFK stood for.”
The committee convened by current Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to plan the city’s event wanted to focus “in a positive way more on the legacy of President Kennedy,” said Ron Kirk, a former mayor and member of the panel.