Nation & World briefly Nov. 7
US warns of possible Boko Haram bomb attacks in Nigeria capital after sect kills more than 100
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) – After a weekend of violence and fear, U.S. officials warned Sunday that luxury hotels frequented by foreigners and Nigeria’s elite may be bombed by a radical Muslim sect as the death toll from attacks in the country’s northeast rose to more than 100.
The warning by the U.S. Embassy shows how seriously diplomats take the threat posed by the outlawed Islamist group known locally as Boko Haram, which previously bombed the United Nations headquarters in the capital, Abuja, killing 24.
The unusually specific warning from the U.S. Embassy identified possible targets in Abuja as the Hilton, Nicon Luxury and Sheraton hotels. With popular restaurants and bars, the hotels draw diplomats, politicians and even reformed oil delta militants.
The embassy said an attack may come as Muslims in the oil-rich nation celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday and that its diplomats and staff had been instructed to avoid those hotels.
Still, Nigerian officials continued to downplay the threat posed by the militants, hoping to reassure Africa’s most populous nation that everything remains under control in a country often violently divided by religious and ethnic differences.
Biggest earthquake in Oklahoma history highlights unexplained increase in seismic activity
SPARKS, Okla. (AP) – Clouds of dust belched from the corners of almost every room in Joe Reneau’s house as the biggest earthquake in Oklahoma history rocked the two-story building.
A roar that sounded like a jumbo jet filled the air, and Reneau’s red-brick chimney collapsed and fell into the roof above the living room. By the time the shaking stopped, a pantry worth of food had been strewn across the kitchen and shards of glass and pottery covered the floor.
“It was like WHAM!” said Reneau, 75, gesturing with swipes of his arms. “I thought in my mind the house would stand, but then again, maybe not.”
The magnitude 5.6 earthquake and its aftershocks still had residents rattled Sunday. No injuries were reported, and aside from a buckled highway and the collapse of a tower on the St. Gregory’s University administration building, neither was any major damage. But the weekend earthquakes were among the strongest yet in a state that has seen a dramatic, unexplained increase in seismic activity.
Oklahoma typically had about 50 earthquakes a year until 2009. Then the number spiked, and 1,047 quakes shook the state last year, prompting researchers to install seismographs in the area. Still, most of the earthquakes have been small.
Greek PM, opposition agree to form interim government; will meet Monday to agree on new PM
ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece’s embattled prime minister and main opposition leader agreed Sunday to form an interim government to ensure the country’s new European debt deal and oversee early elections, capping a week of political turmoil that saw Greece facing a catastrophic default and threatening its euro membership.
Greek leaders had been anxious to end a severe political crisis with some positive result before Monday, when the country heads to a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels. The initial agreement, which will see Prime Minister George Papandreou step down, came after a week of drama sparked by his announcement he was taking the debt deal to a referendum. He withdrew that plan Thursday after intense opposition from European leaders and his own Socialist lawmakers, many of whom called for him to resign.
Papandreou “has already stated he will not lead the new government,” the statement from the president’s office said.
He is to meet again Monday with opposition leader Antonis Samaras to seek agreement on who will head the new government and who will be included in its Cabinet, the president’s office said.
A planned meeting with the leaders of all political parties represented in parliament, which was to take place Monday evening, was canceled after parliament’s two leftist parties refused to attend, the office said.
APNewsBreak: Attorney says law governing sex abuse reporting doesn’t apply to Penn St official
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The Pennsylvania law requiring some school officials and others to report suspected child abuse does not apply to a Penn State administrator who’s accused of keeping quiet about allegations that a former football coach molested a boy in a shower, the administrator’s attorney said Sunday.
The comments by Pittsburgh lawyer Thomas J. Farrell offer a preview of the defense he plans to use on the charge of failing to report faced by his client, Gary C. Schultz, the university’s senior vice president for finance and business. Farrell said he will seek to have the charge dismissed.
The charge is part of a broader case centered on retired Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years. Schultz, 62, and Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, 57, were both charged Saturday with failing to report to state and county officials that a witness told them he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a naked boy in the showers of a team practice facility in 2002.
Schultz and Curley were both also charged with perjury. Lawyers for all three men say they are innocent.
Farrell told The Associated Press on Sunday that the mandated reporting rules only apply to people who come into direct contact with children. He also said the statute of limitations for the summary offense with which Schultz is charged is two years, so it expired in 2004.
Conservative reaction to Herman Cain allegations brings racial politics back to forefront
WASHINGTON (AP) – Herman Cain’s rise as a presidential contender was supposed to prove that race didn’t matter in the Republican Party. Cain is fast making it the only thing that does.
The black conservative is trying to navigate around allegations that he sexually harassed at least three women, implying that the accusations surfaced because he is black. Hours after the claims were reported, Cain’s supporters branded his trouble a “high-tech lynching.” That’s the term coined 20 years ago by another black conservative, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, after his confirmation hearings for the court were rocked by allegations of sexual harassment.
Cain’s supporters have pinned blame on a white GOP presidential rival, on liberals afraid of a “strong black conservative” and on mainstream media interested in “guilty until proven innocent.” But by playing the race card with the Thomas precedent, his backers belied the “post-racial” America that President Barack Obama was said to have brought about in the United States – and that they, too, promote.
It’s not a post-racial world, “it’s a partisan world,” said Merle Black, an Emory University political science professor and author of “The Rise of Southern Republicans.”
Cain’s success in Republican straw polls was considered by many, especially black conservatives, proof that America was finally ready to consider candidates according to ideas, not race. Obama was elected the nation’s first black president in 2008 behind a strong vote from minorities, liberals and independents. Few of them are affiliated with the GOP, the party of Abraham Lincoln that lost favor with minority voters behind its 1960s “Southern strategy” of wooing white voters who were unhappy over civil rights legislation.
Protests, gunfire in Syria: 11 killed on first day of Muslim feast despite Arab League accord
BEIRUT (AP) – Syrians in the restive region of Homs performed special prayers for a major Muslim holiday to the sound of explosions and gunfire as government troops pushed forward their assault on the area, killing at least 11 people Sunday, residents and activists said.
The violence on the first day of Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, added to fears that a peace plan brokered by the Arab League last week was unraveling and prompted Qatar’s prime minister to call for an emergency meeting Saturday to discuss the Syrian government’s failure to abide by its commitments.
Egypt’s official news agency MENA reported that Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani called for the meeting “in light of the continuing acts of violence and the Syrian government’s noncompliance” with the terms of the Arab plan.
Violence has continued unabated, though Damascus agreed to halt its crackdown on the 7-month-old uprising that the U.N. says has left some 3,000 people dead.
Under the Arab League plan, Syria’s government agreed to pull tanks and armored vehicles out of cities, release political prisoners and allow journalists and rights groups into the country.
Entrepreneurs seeking to profit with merchandise from Occupy Wall Street demonstrations
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The revolution will be trademarked and put on T-shirts if an increasing number of entrepreneurs succeed in their attempts to profit from the Occupy demonstrations.
A few T-shirts began to appear several days after the first protest began on Sept. 17 with a march through the streets of lower Manhattan.
Now, T-shirts, coffee mugs and other merchandise emblazoned with Occupy locations and slogans are being offered online and amid the camp sites that have sprung up in cities across the country. A number of merchandise vendors, clothing designers and others are making plans to market a wide-variety of goods for a wide-variety of reasons even as some protesters decry the business plans as directly counter to the demonstrations’ goals.
In recent weeks, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has received a spate of applications from enterprising merchandisers, lawyer and others seeking to win exclusive commercial rights to such phrases as “We are the 99 percent,” “Occupy” and “Occupy DC 2012.”
Organizers of the protest centered in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park went so far as to file for a trademark of “Occupy Wall Street” after several other applications connected to the demonstrations were filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Analysis: First dot.coms, then mortgages. Could education be the next bubble?
First the dot.coms popped, then mortgages. Are student loans and higher education the next bubble, the latest investment craze inflating on borrowed money and misplaced faith it can never go bad?
Some experts have raised the possibility. Last summer, Moody’s Analytics pronounced fears of an education spending bubble “not without merit.” Last spring, investor and PayPal founder Peter Thiel called attention to his claims of an education bubble by awarding two dozen young entrepreneurs $100,000 each NOT to attend college.
Recent weeks have seen another spate of “bubble” headlines – student loan defaults up, tuition rising another 8.3 percent this year and finally, out Thursday, a new report estimating that average student debt for borrowers from the college class of 2010 has passed $25,000. And all that on top of a multi-year slump in the job-market for new college graduates.
So do those who warn of a bubble have a case?
The hard part, of course, is that a bubble is never apparent until it bursts. But the short answer is this: There are worrisome trends. A degree is an asset whose value can change over time. Borrowing to pay for it is risky, and borrowing is way up. The stakes are high. You can usually walk away from a house. Not so a student loan, which can’t even be discharged in bankruptcy.
Drug dealer-turned-informant in NY gets $9M over 15 years and delivers the ‘Merchant of Death’
NEW YORK (AP) – The most bankable star witness at the trial of an ex-Soviet officer known as the Merchant of Death was a former drug dealer turned U.S. government-sponsored actor who became one of the highest paid informants in history.
Carlos Sagastume, 40, earned more than $9 million over 15 years by convincing drug dealers and a weapons merchant that he was as bad – if not worse – than they.
Collecting evidence against Viktor Bout was another major achievement in a remarkable career for Sagastume. He posed as a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as the FARC, to coax Bout to travel from Russia to Thailand in March 2008 to arrange to send deadly weapons to Colombian rebels to fight Americans.
The monthlong trial in federal court in Manhattan ended Wednesday with Bout’s conviction on conspiracy charges. The arms dealer, an inspiration for the character played by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film “Lord of War,” faces a potential life sentence.
Sagastume made most of his millions through the State Department’s Narcotics Rewards Program, collecting $7.5 million from two rewards for work he did for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Another $1.6 million was earned through work on 150 investigations, though some of the money covered expenses.
Geoffrey Mutai sets course record at NYC Marathon; Firehiwot Dado comes back to win women’s
NEW YORK (AP) – Geoffrey Mutai likes his chances in any championship-style marathon.
The Kenyan has turned in two eye-popping performances in seven months in races without pace-setters after he shattered the course record in the New York City Marathon on Sunday. He figures to be the favorite at next summer’s London Games – if he can make the Olympic team in a country so deep in the sport.
Mutai’s performance was no surprise after he ran the fastest marathon ever earlier this year. Firehiwot Dado wasn’t a favorite coming into the women’s race and victory seemed impossible with even a few miles left. But the Ethiopian made a stunning comeback for her first major marathon title.
Mutai finished in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 6 seconds, crushing the previous mark of 2:07:43 set by Tesfaye Jifar of Ethiopia a decade earlier.
In April, Mutai ran the fastest 26.2 miles in history: 2:03:02 in Boston. It didn’t count as a world record because the course is considered too straight and too downhill.