Continued from page 1

WASHINGTON (AP) - Just back from their own long break, Supreme Court justices set out Monday to resolve a politically charged fight over when the Senate’s absence gives the president the power to make temporary appointments to high-level positions without senators’ approval.

The legal battle is the outgrowth of partisan rancor over presidential appointees that has characterized Washington over the past 20 years, and especially since President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

Recess appointments have divided Democrats and Republicans, with views changing depending on which party holds the White House. But during more than 90 minutes of arguments Monday, the Obama administration was hard pressed to find support for its stand in favor of recess appointments from justices named by Republicans and Democrats alike - including Obama.

Justice Elena Kagan, an Obama nominee, seized on the political dispute to make the point to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. that “congressional intransigence” to Obama nominees may not be enough to win the court fight.

Kagan, Verrilli’s predecessor as Obama’s top Supreme Court lawyer, suggested that it “is the Senate’s role to determine whether they’re in recess.”

___

Blockade of rebel-held Palestinian area of Damascus causes death of at least 40

BEIRUT (AP) - Children, the elderly and others displaced by Syria’s civil war are starving to death in a besieged camp where women brave sniper fire to forage for food just minutes from the relative prosperity of Damascus.

The dire conditions at the Yarmouk camp are a striking example of the catastrophe unfolding in rebel-held areas blockaded by the Syrian government. U.S. and Russian diplomats said Monday the warring sides are considering opening humanitarian corridors to let in aid and build confidence ahead of an international peace conference on Syria.

Interviews with residents and U.N. officials, as well as photos and videos provided to The Associated Press, reveal an unfolding tragedy in the sprawling camp, where tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and displaced Syrians are trapped under an intensifying yearlong blockade.

Forty-six people have died since October of starvation, illnesses exacerbated by hunger or because they couldn’t obtain medical aid, residents said.

“There are no more people in Yarmouk, only skeletons with yellow skin,” said 27-year-old resident Umm Hassan, the mother of two toddlers.

___

Federal forces to take over security in part of western Mexico as vigilantes clash with cartel

APATZINGAN, Mexico (AP) - Federal forces will take over security in a large swath of a western Mexico state where firefights between vigilante groups and drug traffickers erupted over the weekend, a top Mexican official announced Monday.

Story Continues →