Nation & World briefly May 9
US says it wants access to bin Laden widows amid questions over whether Pakistan harbored him
ISLAMABAD (AP) – The United States wants access to Osama bin Laden’s three widows and any intelligence material its commandos left behind at the al-Qaida leader’s compound, a top American official said in comments broadcast Sunday that could add a fresh sticking point in already frayed ties with Pakistan.
Information from the women, who remained in the house after the commandos killed bin Laden, might answer questions about whether Pakistan harbored the al-Qaida chief as many American officials are speculating. It could also reveal details about the day-to-day life of bin Laden, his actions since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the inner workings of al-Qaida.
The women, along with several children also picked up from the house, are believed to be in Pakistani army custody. A Pakistani army official declined to comment Sunday on the request, which U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon revealed on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The CIA and Pakistan’s spy agency, known by the acronym ISI, have worked uneasily together in the past on counterterrorism, but the unilateral U.S. raid – done without Pakistan’s advance knowledge – has exposed the deep mistrust that scars a complicated if vital partnership for both nations.
Even before the May 1 raid, the ISI said it was cutting cooperation with CIA to protest drone strikes close to the Afghan border, among other things. In the current environment, Pakistan could use the fact it has something Washington wants – bin Laden’s widows – as leverage to reduce some of the pressure it is under.
Riots, church burning drag Muslim-Christian relations to new low in post-revolution Egypt
CAIRO (AP) – Relations between Egypt’s Muslims and Christians degenerated to a new low Sunday after riots overnight left 12 people dead and a church burned, adding to the disorder of the country’s post-revolution transition to democracy.
The attack on the church was the latest sign of assertiveness by an extreme, ultraconservative movement of Muslims known as Salafis, whose increasing hostility toward Egypt’s Coptic Christians over the past few months has met with little interference from the country’s military rulers.
Salafis have been blamed for other recent attacks on Christians and others they don’t approve of. In one attack, a Christian man had an ear cut off for renting an apartment to a Muslim woman suspected of involvement in prostitution.
The latest violence, which erupted in fresh clashes Sunday between Muslims and Christians who pelted each other with stones in another part of Cairo, also pointed to what many see as reluctance of the armed forces council to act. The council took temporary control of the country after President Hosni Mubarak was deposed on Feb. 11.
After the overnight clashes in the slum of Imbaba, residents turned their anger toward the military. Some said they and the police did almost nothing to intervene in the five-hour frenzy of violence.
More people being told to evacuate parts of Memphis as city waits as the river rises
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – Tourists gathered along Beale Street and gawkers snapped photos of the rising Mississippi, even as more residents were told Sunday to flee their homes and the river’s crest edged toward the city, threatening to soak greater pockets of the city.
Officials went door-to-door, warning about 240 people to get out before the river reaches its expected peak Tuesday. In all, residents in more than 1,300 homes have been told to go, and some 370 people were staying in shelters.
The Mississippi spared Kentucky and northwest Tennessee any catastrophic flooding and no deaths have been reported there, but some low-lying towns and farmland along the banks of the big river have been inundated with water. And there’s tension farther south in the Mississippi Delta and Louisiana, with the river’s crest continuing a lazy pace, leaving behind what could be a slow-developing disaster.
Shirley Woods, who lives in south Memphis, wakes up each day and decides whether to leave. She was barbecuing ribs, chicken, pork chops and hot dogs with relatives on Mother’s Day, despite floodwaters that are just feet from her house.
“My sister called this morning and asked about the flood,” Woods said. “I’ll give it another day, and if it comes up much higher, we’re getting out of here.”
As their flocks take comfort in Osama bin Laden’s death, religious leaders appeal to values
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) – The killing of Osama bin Laden, a man who was America’s face of evil for nearly a decade, left Christians, Jews and Muslims relieved, proud or even jubilant. For their religious leaders, it was sometimes hard to know just what to say.
There is at least some dissonance between the values they preach and the triumphant response on the streets of New York and Washington to the death of a human being – even one responsible for thousands of killings in those areas and around the world.
“Justice may have been served, but we Catholics never rejoice in the death of a human being,” said the Rev. Stephen Mimnaugh.
He did not mention bin Laden during Sunday’s morning Mass at Manhattan’s St. Francis of Assisi, the church of the late Mychal Judge, chaplain of the Fire Department of New York and the first recorded victim of the Sept. 11 attacks in the city.
After Mass, Mimnaugh cited comments published in America, a weekly Catholic magazine. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, wrote that “no matter how monstrous” a person is, “as a Christian, I am asked to pray for him and, at some point, forgive him.”
Miles-long fuel lines, shuttered shops and empty streets as shortages choke Tripoli
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) – Cars sat abandoned in miles-long fuel lines, motorists traded angry screams with soldiers guarding gas stations, and many shops were closed Sunday on what should have been a work day.
In ever-multiplying ways, residents in the Libyan capital are feeling the sting of shortages from uprising-related disruptions of supplies.
The shortages are a dramatic sign of how Libya’s nearly 3-month-old rebellion – and the resulting chaos – is affecting daily life in Moammar Gadhafi’s stronghold and other western areas of Libya still under his rule. International sanctions have begun to bite, many supply routes are unstable, and there are shortages of skilled people in some sectors to keep the city running smoothly.
Yet the deprivations – however irksome – pale in comparison to the situation in the port city of Misrata, the only rebel stronghold in western Libya. It has been under siege by land for two months, with hundreds of civilians killed, and Gadhafi’s forces are now trying to block access to the port that is Misrata’s only lifeline.
In Tripoli, the shortages were obvious, even to Western reporters who may only leave their hotel with a government minder and guard. It is less clear what the eventual impact might be on Gadhafi’s ability to rule.
Pentagon finds itself in the health care business and struggles with $53 billion price tag
WASHINGTON (AP) – A military built for fighting wars is looking more and more like a health care entitlement program.
Costs of the program that provides health coverage to some 10 million active duty personnel, retirees, reservists and their families have jumped from $19 billion in 2001 to $53 billion in the Pentagon’s latest budget request.
Desperate to cut spending in Washington’s time of fiscal austerity, President Barack Obama has proposed increasing the fees for working-age retirees in the decades-old health program, known as TRICARE. After years of resisting proposed increases for the military men and women who sacrificed for a nation, budget-conscious lawmakers suddenly are poised to make them pay a bit more for their health care, though not on the president’s terms.
The current fees, unchanged in 11 years, are $230 a year for an individual and $460 for a family. That’s far less than what civilian federal workers pay for health care, about $5,000 a year, and what most other people in the U.S. pay.
Obama is seeking a fee increase of $2.50 per month for an individual and $5 per month for families, which approaches the current price of a gallon of gasoline. Future increases starting in 2013 would be pegged to rising costs as measured by the national health care expenditure index produced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which projects 6.2 percent growth.
La Nina rules the West: Record snow year brings wild mixture of flood risk, drought and fire
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The winter and early spring have been extreme across the West, with record snowpacks bringing joy to skiers and urban water managers but severe flood risks to northern Utah, Wyoming and Montana.
And despite all the wet weather in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada, parts of eastern Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona are in severe drought and gearing up for what is forecast as a bad fire season. In New Mexico, some 400 fires, driven by relentless winds, have already raced across 315,000 acres.
Credit – or blame – for the extreme weather goes mostly to a strong La Nina, which is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean and an atmospheric flow that’s causing drier than normal conditions in the Southwest and wetter than normal in the Northwest..
“This winter has been fairly unusual,” said Laura Edwards, a research climatologist at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev., in what can only be considered an understatement.
Randy Julander, supervisor for the Utah Snow Survey, described more colorfully the disparity between the snow buried, flood endangered parts of the West and those that are parched and burning: “They’re wishing they could get a little of what we have. (The wet weather) just continues to get worse. At this point, all you can do is open the chute, let her buck and hope your butt stays glued to the saddle.”
Together, Phoebe Prince and Tyler Clementi alerted nation to bullying crisis in schools
BOSTON (AP) – Phoebe Prince was a recently arrived Irish immigrant, 15 and emotionally fragile, when high school bullying over two boys she dated apparently drove her to hang herself with a scarf in her Massachusetts home.
Tyler Clementi was an 18-year-old violinist with a bright future. He jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River after his roommate at Rutgers University allegedly used a webcam to spy on his same-sex liaison.
They never met each other, but together their ordeals put a spotlight on the harm caused by bullying and helped strengthen laws to crack down on what had until then been treated as a rite of adolescence.
“This prosecution has also shattered the myths that bullying is just part of growing up, that it affects only a small number of kids, and that kids can work it out themselves,” said David Sullivan, a prosecutor in the Prince case. “The era of turning a blind eye to bullying and harassment is over.”
Last week, five teenagers charged in the Prince case admitted in court that they participated in her bullying. In plea deals with prosecutors, they received probation and were ordered to perform community service. If they successfully complete their probation, the charges will be dropped. A statutory rape charge against a sixth teenager was dropped.
‘Thor’ smashes competition, opens with $66 million weekend
LOS ANGELES (AP) – “Thor” kicked off the summer movie season by smashing the competition at the box office with a $66 million opening weekend.
The 3-D action picture from Paramount, based on the Marvel comic, was by far the No. 1 movie, according to Sunday studio estimates.
Australian actor Chris Hemsworth stars as the arrogant god of thunder who’s sent down to Earth as punishment. It was directed by Kenneth Branagh, best known for making films based on Shakespeare plays such an epic “Hamlet,” and featured a supporting cast that included Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgard.
In second place was a holdover from last week, the car-racing sequel “Fast Five” from Universal Pictures. It made $32.5 million for a total of nearly $140 million in just 10 days.
Although the opening for “Thor” wasn’t as enormous as those of other superhero movies, it still exceeded studio expectations, which were around $55 million. It was the third-highest opening for a Marvel franchise launch, behind “Spider-Man,” which made $115 million in 2002, and “Iron Man,” which made $98.6 million in 2008.
Coming home: Animal Kingdom to head back to Maryland base and await likely run in Preakness
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom will be heading back to his home turf to await a likely run in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
He became the first horse in the 137-year history of the Derby to win in his debut on dirt, having run three times on synthetic surfaces and once on the turf in his four previous races.
Animal Kingdom will return to Maryland on Tuesday to begin preparations for the 1 3-16-mile Preakness on May 21 at Pimlico, about 60 miles from his home base at Fair Hill Training Center.
Trainer Graham Motion wants to keep jockey John Velazquez on his colt for the Preakness, and it seems likely that will happen.
Animal Kingdom’s regular rider, Robby Albarado, broke his nose and had facial cuts and abrasions after a spill Wednesday. He took himself off his mounts Thursday and Friday. That influenced the decision of Barry Irwin, who oversees the Team Valor partnership that owns Animal Kingdom.