- Associated Press - Saturday, October 18, 2014

Supreme Court allows Texas to use controversial voter ID law for November election

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court said Saturday that Texas can use its controversial new voter identification law for the November election.

A majority of the justices rejected an emergency request from the Justice Department and civil rights groups to prohibit the state from requiring voters to produce certain forms of photo identification in order to cast ballots. Three justices dissented.

The law was struck down by a federal judge last week, but a federal appeals court had put that ruling on hold. The judge found that roughly 600,000 voters, many of them black or Latino, could be turned away at the polls because they lack acceptable identification. Early voting in Texas begins Monday.

The Supreme Court’s order was unsigned, as it typically is in these situations. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, saying they would have left the district court decision in place.

The law sets out seven forms of approved ID - a list that includes concealed handgun licenses but not college student IDs, which are accepted in other states with similar measures.


Health officials fear Ebola may become the new AIDS, but experts note many differences

NEW YORK (AP) - Is Ebola the world’s worst infectious disease threat since AIDS?

Comparisons between the two deadly diseases surfaced in the last few months as the Ebola outbreak escalated. Both emerged from Africa and erupted into an international health crisis. And both have been a shocking reminder that mankind’s battle against infectious diseases can take a sudden, terrible turn for the worse.

In his three decades in public health, the only thing like Ebola has been the AIDS epidemic, said Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“And we have to work now so this is not the world’s next AIDS,” he told a meeting of the world’s economic leaders in Washington last week.

But Ebola is not expected to ever be in the same league as AIDS in terms of infections and deaths, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases


Calls mount for an Ebola travel ban, but public health experts worry it could backfire

WASHINGTON (AP) - A ban on travel from West Africa might seem like a simple and smart response to the frightening Ebola outbreak there. It’s become a central demand of Republicans on Capitol Hill and some Democrats, and is popular with the public. But health experts are nearly unanimous in saying it’s a bad idea that could backfire.

The experts’ key objection is that a travel ban could prevent needed medical supplies, food and health care workers from reaching Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the nations where the epidemic is at its worst. Without that aid, the deadly virus might spread to wider areas of Africa, making it even more of a threat to the U.S. and the world, experts say.

In addition, preventing people from the affected countries from traveling to the U.S. could be difficult to enforce and might generate counterproductive results, such as people lying about their travel history or attempting to evade screening.

The U.S. has not instituted a travel ban in response to a disease outbreak in recent history. The experts insist now is not the time to start, especially given that the disease is still extremely contained in the U.S. and the only people who have caught it here are two health care workers who cared for a sick patient who later died.

“If we know anything in global health it’s that you can’t wrap a whole region in cellophane and expect to keep out a rapidly moving infectious disease. It doesn’t work that way,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor and global health expert at Georgetown University Law Center. “Ultimately people will flee one way or another, and the more infection there is and the more people there are, the more they flee and the more unsafe we are.”


Report: Ferguson police officer tells investigators he feared for his life during struggle

WASHINGTON (AP) - The police officer who fatally shot an unarmed 18-year-old in a St. Louis suburb last summer has told investigators that he was pinned in his vehicle and in fear for his life as they struggled over his gun, The New York Times reported.

Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson has told authorities that Michael Brown reached for the gun during a scuffle, the Times reported in a story posted on its website Friday night. The officer’s account to authorities did not explain why he fired at Brown multiple times after emerging from his vehicle, according to the newspaper.

The Times reported that the account of Wilson’s version of events came from government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation into the Aug. 9 shooting that sparked racial unrest and weeks of protests, some of which turned violent. Wilson is white and Brown black.

Wilson confronted Brown and a friend while they were walking back to Brown’s home from a convenience store. After the shooting, Brown died at the scene. Some witnesses have told authorities and news media that Brown had his hands raised when Wilson approached with his weapon and fired repeatedly. An independent autopsy commissioned by the family says that Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head.

The Times reported that Wilson has told investigators that he was trying to leave his SUV when Brown pushed him back in and that once inside the vehicle the two began to fight. Wilson told authorities that Brown punched and scratched him repeatedly, leaving swelling on his face and cuts on his neck, the Times reported.


Hurricane Gonzalo crosses over Bermuda, giving island second pummeling by storm this week

HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) - Hurricane Gonzalo crushed trees, flattened power lines and damaged Bermuda’s main hospital during an hours-long battering that was the second pummeling of the tiny British territory by a powerful storm in less than a week.

The storm’s center crossed over Bermuda during Friday night and its winds and heavy surf were still whipping at the island early Saturday as Gonzalo moved northward over the Atlantic.

Forecasters warned of the danger of a storm surge of 10 feet (3 meters) that could cause widespread flooding, but a full assessment of damages likely wouldn’t come until daylight.

Just under half of the island’s 70,000 people were reported without power late Friday as the hurricane roared through, just days after Tropical Storm Fay damaged homes and also knocked down trees and power lines.

“To be struck twice by two different cyclones is unusual, to say the least,” said Max Mayfield, a former director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.


GOP going after House Dems from districts that backed Romney, but few prove to be pushovers

WASHINGTON (AP) - Republicans are waging a take-no-prisoners battle to boot Democrats from what they consider GOP property: seats from House districts that presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried in 2012.

Yet even with President Barack Obama’s broad unpopularity clamping a lead weight to the ankles of many of his party’s candidates, most of these contests are either tossups or races that Democrats have a decent chance of winning on Election Day.

Democrats hold nine Romney-won House congressional districts, dotting the country from Florida’s Atlantic Ocean beaches to rural Minnesota to Arizona’s border with Mexico. So far, two races seem decided: The retirements of long-time Democratic incumbents Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Jim Matheson of Utah all but ensure GOP victories in the Nov. 4 voting.

“That is a terrific opportunity,” GOP pollster David Winston said of the Democratic-held Romney districts. “But I want to emphasize, that’s an opportunity, not an outcome.”

The nine seats are prime targets for Republicans as they try to pad their 233-199 House majority, which excludes three vacancies.


Indonesia’s incoming president gets boost after meeting rival, but tough challenges await

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Rebooting a slowing economy in a nation of 250 million where inequality is rising, a looming decision on raising fuel prices and vulnerability to any U.S. interest rate hikes would be enough to tax any incoming president.

But Indonesia’s Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who takes office Monday, must also find a way to work with a powerful and well-funded opposition that could block moves to address the challenges holding back the country’s rise as an emerging market powerhouse.

At least eight heads of state and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will attend the inauguration, a sign of Indonesia’s regional and international clout. After years of dictatorship, the country was convulsed by unrest in the late 1990s and turned to democracy amid the upheaval of the Asian financial crisis. It is the biggest economy in Southeast Asia and home to more Muslims than any other nation.

In a positive sign for the minority government that Jokowi will lead, the head of the opposition and losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto met with him Friday for the first time since the polls, finally conceding defeat and offering qualified support. Many analysts still fear that Subianto could play an obstructive role, but the meeting offered at least some hope that the rancor of the bitterly contested polls might be subsiding.

Jokowi is taking over from Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has overseen consolidation of Indonesia’s young democracy and steady economic growth, albeit now at just over 5 percent, its slowest pace in five years. Slowing demand in China for Indonesia’s natural resources has dulled exports. High interest rates to rein in a yawning current account deficit have also taken the steam out of the economy.


Coast Guard tows Russian ship carrying fuel that was drifting in rough seas off Canadian coast

PRINCE RUPERT, British Columbia (AP) - Canadian coast guard officials secured a towline to a Russian container ship carrying hundreds of tons of fuel as it drifted without power in rough seas off British Columbia’s pristine northern coast. The move lessened the threat of the ship running aground, hitting the rocks and causing a spill.

The Canadian Forces’ joint rescue coordination center said the Russian carrier Simushir lost power off Haida Gwaii, also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, as it made its way from Everett in Washington state to Russia.

The Council of the Haida Nation said late Friday the Coast Guard Ship Gordon Reid managed to secure a towline and the two vessels were moving away from the coastline at Gwaii Haanas at 1.5 knots. The statement noted the situation remained highly tenuous, and the outcome was subject to weather. Another coast guard ship was expected to arrive early Saturday and attempt to assist in towing the vessel to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, depending on weather.

Sub Lt. Melissa Kia, of Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, said three more vessels, including a U.S. Coast Guard ship, are on their way to assist. She said the Gordon Reid is towing the container ship slowly and while the danger has lessened, it is not over.

The ship, originally nine miles (14.5 kilometers) offshore, was drifting northwest in stormy seas Friday, away from shore, but Roger Girouard, an assistant commissioner with the Canadian Coast Guard, said it had no propulsion. The ship lost power late Thursday, officials said.


Stay-home dad who wanted new life for family accused instead of killing 2 kids, then himself

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - David Mohney wanted big changes for his family: to end his turbulent marriage, move his children 1,900 miles from Florida to South Dakota and transition from being a stay-at-home dad to starting work as a chiropractor.

Instead, authorities say, 52-year-old Mohney reached for a gun after arguing with his wife and shot all three of their children before killing himself. The couple’s youngest, a 9-year-old daughter, survived. But both of her siblings died along with their father.

“If he wants to commit suicide, let him commit suicide. To shoot the children, that’s cowardly,” Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said the outside the family’s home hours after the slayings occurred before dawn Friday.

The family had lived in Florida for about four years, and the volatile relationship David Mohney had with his wife, Cynthia, seemed to be no secret in their middle-class neighborhood just south of Daytona Beach.

“You can’t believe either one of them,” a neighbor told a 911 dispatcher after Cynthia Mohney came to his home screaming at 5:11 a.m. Friday. The man, whose name and address were redacted from the 911 recording provided by authorities, also said neither parent should have had children because they were “a little bit selfish and self-centered.” The distraught wife can be heard in the background of the recording crying hysterically, repeatedly saying “Oh my god!”


Kansas City Royals fans declare desire to party like it’s 1985, but would they really want to?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - An unprecedented playoff run has Kansas City baseball fans declaring it’s time to party like it’s 1985, the year the Royals beat St. Louis for their only World Series title.

Given what was happening in Kansas City 29 years ago, would they really want to?

Times were tight in 1985 as the farm crisis raged on, with skyrocketing interest rates and plummeting land values putting many farmers out of business while their banks struggled to stay afloat. The NBA’s Kansas City Kings packed up their bags and moved to California that year, while Union Station closed its doors following decades of neglect.

And in the heart of the city, empty buildings lined a downtown area that was only a shadow of the glitzy, nightlife-driven entertainment area much of it has become.

“1985 in some ways was Kansas City’s low point - redeemed by George Brett and the guys who did a tremendous job,” said Crosby Kemper III, director of the Kansas City Public Library. “It was the middle of the decline of downtown.”

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