- Associated Press - Friday, November 21, 2014

Immigration puzzle: Republicans angry but uncertain what to do about Obama immigration action

WASHINGTON (AP) - United against President Barack Obama but uncertain how to stop him, outraged Republicans struggled for a response on immigration Friday that would check the president without veering into talk of impeachment or a government shutdown. Their remedy was far from clear.

Republicans weighed filing a lawsuit. Or trying to block funding for Obama’s move. Or advancing immigration measures of their own. But the party was divided, and Obama’s veto pen seemed to give him the upper hand.

And so, less than three weeks removed from midterm elections where they retook the Senate and amassed a historic majority in the House, Republicans found themselves stymied by a lame duck president whose unilateral move to curb deportations for millions left previously dispirited Democrats cheering and the GOP with no obvious response.

“We’re working with our members, looking at the options that are available to us, but I will say to you: The House will, in fact, act,” House Speaker John Boehner declared at a news conference the day after Obama unveiled his landmark policy. Obama announced he was extending deportation protections and a chance for work permits to as many as 5 million immigrants now in the country illegally. He also will make more business visas available and reorder law enforcement priorities to focus more squarely on criminals for deportation.



“In the days ahead the people’s house will rise to this challenge” said Boehner at the Capitol. “We will not stand idle as the president undermines the rule of law in our country and places lives at risk. … He’s damaging the presidency itself.”

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Immigration puzzle: Republicans angry but uncertain what to do about Obama immigration action

WASHINGTON (AP) - United against President Barack Obama but uncertain how to stop him, outraged Republicans struggled for a response on immigration Friday that would check the president without veering into talk of impeachment or a government shutdown. Their remedy was far from clear.

Republicans weighed filing a lawsuit. Or trying to block funding for Obama’s move. Or advancing immigration measures of their own. But the party was divided, and Obama’s veto pen seemed to give him the upper hand.

And so, less than three weeks removed from midterm elections where they retook the Senate and amassed a historic majority in the House, Republicans found themselves stymied by a lame duck president whose unilateral move to curb deportations for millions left previously dispirited Democrats cheering and the GOP with no obvious response.

“We’re working with our members, looking at the options that are available to us, but I will say to you: The House will, in fact, act,” House Speaker John Boehner declared at a news conference the day after Obama unveiled his landmark policy. Obama announced he was extending deportation protections and a chance for work permits to as many as 5 million immigrants now in the country illegally. He also will make more business visas available and reorder law enforcement priorities to focus more squarely on criminals for deportation.

“In the days ahead the people’s house will rise to this challenge” said Boehner at the Capitol. “We will not stand idle as the president undermines the rule of law in our country and places lives at risk. … He’s damaging the presidency itself.”

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Flooding becomes new threat in Buffalo area as snow ends; Cuomo says roads remain dangerous

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Residents of western New York may soon have to worry about the water in their basements as well as the snow on their roofs.

After a three-day onslaught that dumped a historic 7 feet of snow on the Buffalo area and killed at least 12 people, the sun came out Friday, but so did predictions of flooding caused by rain, temperatures up to 60 degrees and blocked catch basins.

“We are preparing now for more flooding than we’ve seen in a long, long time,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “We still have that challenge to look forward to.” Cuomo said the state was sending in pumps, boats, helicopters and high-axle vehicles that can operate in 4 to 5 feet of water.

“If we’re lucky we won’t need any of it,” he said. “But prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for Sunday to Wednesday.

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Not so joyful: Bill Cosby’s comedy tour begins to crumble as more women allege sexual assault

NEW YORK (AP) - Performances by Bill Cosby in Las Vegas, Illinois, Arizona, South Carolina and Washington State have been canceled as more women come forward accusing the entertainer of sexually assaulting them many years ago.

The director of The Broadway Center in Tacoma, Washington said Friday that it has canceled Cosby’s April 18 appearance because it conflicts with the nonprofit organization’s mission “to strengthen our community’s social fabric by building empathy, furthering education and sharing joy.”

“We were not confident in our ability to meet those objectives by proceeding with Mr. Cosby’s performance,” David Fischer said.

Cosby’s lawyer has said claims by four women are untrue; a statement from Cosby on Sunday dismissed most of the others as “decade-old, discredited allegations.”

Officials at the Treasure Island hotel and casino on the Las Vegas strip said Friday they mutually agreed with the comedian to cancel his Nov. 28 performance. No reason was given by the Diamond Desert casino in Tucson, Arizona, for canceling his Feb. 15 show.

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Islamic State group’s bid to capture key town of Kobani in northern Syria is blunted by Kurds

BEIRUT (AP) - More than two months into its assault on Kobani, the Islamic State group is still pouring fighters and resources into trying to capture the besieged Syrian Kurdish town, but the drive has been blunted.

Helped by more than 270 airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition, the border town’s unwavering Kurdish defenders are gaining momentum - a potentially bruising reversal for the extremists who only a few weeks ago appeared to be unstoppable.

The setback in Kobani is “a statement of IS group’s vulnerability,” said David L. Phillips, an expert on Kurdish issues.

Retired Marine Gen. John Allen, the U.S. envoy for the international coalition fighting the Islamic State militants, said the group continues to mass around Kobani, creating more targets for the U.S. and its allies.

“ISIL has, in so many ways, impaled itself on Kobani,” he said in an interview Wednesday in Ankara with the Turkish daily Milliyet, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

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No stand down order or military missteps in Benghazi attack, GOP-controlled intel panel finds

WASHINGTON (AP) - A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.

The House Intelligence Committee report was released with little fanfare on the Friday before Thanksgiving week. Many of its findings echo those of six previous investigations by various congressional committees and a State Department panel. The eighth Benghazi investigation is being carried out by a House Select Committee appointed in May.

The attacks in Benghazi killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith, and two CIA contractors, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty. A Libyan extremist, Ahmed Abu Khatalla, is facing trial on murder charges after he was captured in Libya and taken to the U.S.

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Initial hopes of progress at Iran nuke talks dashed, as Tehran reports no progress

VIENNA (AP) - Contentious nuclear talks between world powers and Tehran hit a new snag Friday after Iran apparently again turned down U.S. demands for concessions, leaving negotiations in limbo just three days before a deadline for a deal.

In hours of high drama reflecting the delicate stage of the talks, both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif first made, then cancelled plans to walk away from the talks - at least temporarily - for additional consultations. Such developments could have meant possible progress, suggesting that the Iranians needed political approval from Tehran to move forward.

After initially announcing he was flying to Paris, Kerry suddenly reversed course and scheduled a new meeting with Zarif late Friday, with the two talking into the evening for more than two hours.

Iranian media initially spoke of a new U.S. initiative that Zarif needed to have his superiors sign off on, but the Iranian diplomat dashed those hopes. “There have been a lot of discussions in Vienna, but there were no remarkable offers and ideas to take to Tehran,” Zarif told Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

The remark reflected the probability that substantial obstacles remain in the way of a deal that would cap Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief - a view reinforced by senior diplomats of other nations taking part in the negotiations.

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Los Angeles school district settles major classroom molestation litigation for $139 million

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Los Angeles Unified School District will pay $139 million to end all remaining litigation involving an elementary school teacher convicted of committing numerous counts of lewd conduct against his students, according to the settlement announced Friday.

The deal involving 81 students puts a legal end to the saga that began when Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt was arrested in 2012 and accused of blindfolding students and feeding them his semen on cookies.

Plaintiff’s lawyers had planned to present evidence suggesting the school district was aware of sexual misconduct by Berndt three decades ago but failed to act until a photo processor at a pharmacy contacted police about film Berndt dropped off that showed pictures of blindfolded children and being fed some substance.

The 19-year-old woman had only been on the job a month.

“She was told not to call the police by her supervisors and she did it, anyway,” John Manley, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, said at a news conference. “If she hadn’t made that call, we wouldn’t be here today and he’d still be teaching.”

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Bandits in Guinea steal blood samples believed to be infected with Ebola

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) - It was a highway robbery but the bandits got more than they bargained for when they stopped a taxi in Guinea and made off with blood samples that are believed to be infected with the deadly Ebola virus.

Authorities publicly appealed on national radio Friday to the unidentified robbers to hand over the samples that were stolen from the taxi during its 265-kilometer (165-mile) trek on winding rural roads from the central Kankan prefecture to a test site in southern Gueckedou.

The samples, stored in tightly wrapped vials tucked into a cooler bag, were in the care of a Red Cross courier who was among nine passengers sharing a taxi when three bandits on a motorbike led the attack near the town of Kissidougou, a local Red Cross official said.

The robbers forced the passengers out, stole mobile phones, cash and jewelry, and fired into the air as they demanded the handover of the cooler bag, said Saa Mamady Leno of the Red Cross in Gueckedou. The courier, Abubakar Donzo, was later questioned by police.

Faya Etienne Tolno, a spokesman for the Guinea Red Cross, said the aid group had a shortage of vehicles for transport, which explains why a taxi was used. No one was injured in the incident, which took place on a road known for banditry.

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Ukraine’s Facebook revolution: 1 year later, a country struggles with economic crisis and war

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Ukraine’s revolution began with a status update on Facebook.

Angered by another high-handed move by an increasingly unpopular government, activist reporter Mustafa Nayyem called for a rally on the country’s most famous square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti - Independence Square.

“As soon as there are more than 1,000 of us, we will start organizing,” Nayyem wrote.

He got hundreds on that damp evening of Nov. 21, 2013, the start of a protest movement that eventually would draw hundreds of thousands into the square, topple the government and propel the world into a dangerous new diplomatic phase.

One year after that status update, Ukraine formed a coalition government Friday with a mission to overhaul the economy, combat corruption and steer the country toward integration with Europe.

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