Nation & World Briefly July 23 |

Nation & World Briefly July 23

Obama formally ends 17-year ban on gays serving in the military

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama on Friday formally signed off on ending the ban on gays serving openly in the military, doing away with a policy that’s been controversial from the day it was enacted and making good on his 2008 campaign promise to the gay community.

The president joined Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, the joint chiefs of staff chairman, in signing a notice and sending it to Congress certifying that military readiness would not be hurt by repealing the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

That means that 60 days from now the ban will be lifted.

“As commander in chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness,” Obama said in a statement.

“Today’s action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal. As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country.”

What did James Murdoch know, and when? Lawmakers demand answers as scandal grows

LONDON (AP) – Media scion James Murdoch, his father’s heir apparent, was under fire Friday over claims by former newspaper executives that he misled lawmakers about what he knew, and when, about Britain’s phone-hacking scandal.

The allegation raises questions not only about his succession to the helm of the media empire but what he may have relayed to Rupert Murdoch, the CEO and controlling shareholder.

The younger Murdoch told a parliamentary committee that he was not aware of evidence that eavesdropping at the News of the World went beyond a jailed rogue reporter. But in a sign that executives are starting to turn against the company, two former top staffers said late Thursday they told him years ago about an email that suggested wrongdoing at the paper was more widespread than the company let on.

The claim brings more trouble for the embattled James Murdoch, who heads the Europe and Asia operations of his father’s News Corp., as his family fights a scandal that has already cost it one of its British tabloids, two top executives and a $12 billion bid for control of a lucrative satellite broadcaster.

Deliberately misleading Parliament is a crime in Britain, and Prime Minister David Cameron has joined opposition lawmakers in saying James Murdoch has questions to answer.

North and South Korea to work together to resume nuclear talks halted in 2008

BALI, Indonesia (AP) – Top nuclear envoys from rivals North and South Korea agreed Friday to work toward a resumption of stalled nuclear disarmament talks, a significant breakthrough after more than a year of confrontation and escalating threats that have put the region on edge.

The talks, which the envoys described as constructive and sincere, mark the first such meeting since 2008, when international negotiations aimed at ending Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program collapsed. They could represent a long-awaited move away from conflict and toward dialogue.

The announcement is good news for diplomats in Washington and Asia who have been eager for the two rivals to ease tensions that spiked after two attacks that Seoul blames on Pyongyang last year killed 50 South Koreans.

Since the last round of talks, North Korea has also conducted a second nuclear test and revealed a uranium enrichment facility that could give it another way to make atomic bombs. Recent North Korean threats against Seoul’s conservative government include a vow to retaliate over South Korean soldiers’ use of pictures of the ruling North Korean family for target practice.

North Korea, however, has also been signaling a willingness to return to six-nation nuclear talks, which have previously been a path toward badly needed aid. It has been South Korea that has shown reluctance, demanding first that the North apologize for last year’s attacks before agreeing to nuclear talks; the United States has stood by ally South Korea, saying Seoul must be satisfied with the North’s sincerity before Washington will act.