- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

Surveillance powers lapse while Senate debates House bill backed by president

WASHINGTON (AP) - Eight days after blocking it, Senate Republicans have agreed to begin debate on a House bill that would overhaul the National Security Agency’s handling of American calling records while preserving other domestic surveillance provisions.

But that remarkable turnabout didn’t happen soon enough to prevent the laws governing the programs from expiring at midnight Sunday as Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a presidential contender, stood in the way of extending the program, angering his GOP colleagues and frustrating intelligence and law enforcement officials.

Now, the question is whether the Senate will pass a bill the House can live with. If so, the surveillance programs will resume, with some significant changes in how the phone records are handled. If not, they will remain dormant.

The Senate vote on the measure known as the USA Freedom Act can come no earlier than 1 a.m., Tuesday. Senate Republican aides said they expected some amendments, but no major revisions to the bill.

“Having gone past the brink, the Senate must now embrace the necessity of acting responsibly,” said Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, in a statement after Sunday’s Senate vote.


Swimming pool industry touts itself as water-neutral option in California’s 4-year drought

ORANGE, Calif. (AP) - The California swimming pool and spa industry has launched a campaign to market itself as a drought-friendly landscaping option as the state enters a fourth summer of drought that has residential pools and other conspicuous water users in the crosshairs.

As residents struggle to reduce potable water consumption by 25 percent, the California Pool and Spa Association is promoting a campaign called Let’s Pool Together and is lobbying water districts to quash proposed bans on filling pools and spas.

The industry cites an in-house study that found that a standard-sized pool, plus decking, uses one-third the amount of water as an irrigated lawn after an initial fill.

“We’re not saying, ‘Solve the drought, put in a pool,’ but the bottom line is people who put in a pool are making a decision to do something more water efficient with their backyard. They’re saving water,” said John Norwood, the California Pool and Spa Association’s president. “Pools are landscaping.”

Some water conservation experts question the pool industry’s math and say, at best, residential pools and lawns use roughly the same amount of water after an initial fill. There are 1.18 million residential pools in California, according to Metrostudy, which tracks housing information.


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Republican Sen. Rand Paul stands in the way of extending the program, angering his GOP colleagues and frustrating intelligence officials. Some civil liberties groups cheer him.


Solar Impulse plane to make unscheduled landing in Japan because of bad weather

TOKYO (AP) - A solar plane attempting to fly around the world without a drop of fuel plans to make an unscheduled stop Monday night in Nagoya, Japan, because of bad weather.

Swiss pilot André Borschberg took off from Nanjing, China, on Sunday on what was to be the longest leg of the journey, a five-day, 8,175-kilometer (5,079-mile) flight to Hawaii.

Instead, the Solar Impulse 2 will land in Nagoya in central Japan, organizers said.

Japanese Transport Ministry and Nagoya airport officials confirmed that they are making arrangements for an unanticipated landing at Nagoya Airport.

Elke Neumann, a spokeswoman for the Solar Impulse project, said from Nanjing that the team first noticed the bad weather pattern about 36 hours ago.


Kerry grounded after bike accident, but question is how long

GENEVA (AP) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry plans to fly to Boston Monday after staying overnight in a Swiss hospital to receive treatment for a broken leg incurred in a bicycle crash. It was unclear how long he will be grounded once he returns to the U.S.

Kerry fractured his right femur Sunday when he struck a curb with his bicycle and fell on a regular Tour de France route about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Geneva.

Kerry was in stable condition and was receiving treatment at Geneva’s main medical center, HUG. He was to receive further care at Massachusetts General Hospital once he returns home.

“It was sensible for him to remain in the hospital for observation overnight for purely precautionary measures,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said. “The secretary continues to be in great spirits and active. He has done a range of phone calls including with the president.”

He “never lost consciousness, his injury is not life-threatening and he is expected to make a full recovery,” Kirby said in an earlier statement.


Starting his 2016 campaign, South Carolina’s Graham has blunt talk on approach to Middle East

CENTRAL, S.C. (AP) - Lindsey Graham will formally launch his bid for president in the small South Carolina town where he grew up. His White House ambitions are rooted half a world away in the Middle East.

When kicking off his campaign Monday, South Carolina’s senior senator is sure to blast President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq, insist on the need to strong-arm Iran over its nuclear program and work to subdue the violent Islamic State militants who have gained footholds in Iraq and Syria.

Yet in the early days of the 2016 campaign for president, Graham has already gone further than most of his rivals for the GOP nomination in saying how he would tackle such problems, while acknowledging the potential costs of his strategy.

Graham wants to put an additional 10,000-plus U.S. troops into Iraq, adding to the several thousand there now working as trainers and advisers only. He says it could take even more troops to stabilize the Middle East over time, adding “more American soldiers will die in Iraq and eventually in Syria to protect our homeland.”

The Islamic State militants, Graham argued at a recent campaign stop, “want to purify their religion and they want to destroy ours and blow up Israel. Every day they get stronger over there, the more likely we are to get hit over here.”


Old rape kits, an investigator and 4 brave women bring serial rapist to justice

CLEVELAND (AP) - When Stacey Fifer arrived at the prison one day last September, she was carrying four old photos of women, strangers to one another but bound by terrifying memories of the same man.

The criminal investigator had strong suspicions Dwayne Wilson was that man. A letter from the state crime lab had linked Wilson’s DNA to a sexual crime spree - including three rapes for which he’d never been charged and a fourth case that had been dropped, all in 34 months beginning in 1994.

He was now in the Grafton Correctional Institution on an unrelated sexual battery, but Fifer knew he was due to be released in 23 days.

Another deadline also loomed. DNA had linked Wilson to a November 1994 rape. Time was running out to charge him under Ohio’s 20-year statute of limitations.

Fifer, part of a special Cuyahoga County task force, told Wilson his name had surfaced in some cold cases. One by one, she displayed driver’s license photos of the four women taken around the time each was raped.


In a country of smokers, China’s capital imposes tough new ban on lighting up indoors

BEIJING (AP) - China’s capital Monday began imposing the country’s toughest ban on indoor smoking in hopes of stemming a looming health crisis.

Smoking in Beijing is now prohibited in all indoor public places, including offices, shopping malls and airports. Beijing’s main terminal will close its three smoking rooms and special smoking areas will be set up at the city’s 600 bus stops.

Fines for violators have been raised to 200 yuan ($32), up from the 10 yuan ($1.6) charged under the former partial ban.

The World Health Organization says 300 million Chinese smoke, including about half of all men, and 740 million Chinese are exposed to second-hand smoke. The group says lung cancer kills more than 1.3 million people in the country each year, one-third of the global total.

Bans have been imposed in other parts of the country and cigarette sales to minors are technically forbidden, although enforcement is spotty at best.


Matt Dillon puts rare celebrity spotlight on Rohingya at their apartheid-like camp in Myanmar

SITTWE, Myanmar (AP) - American actor Matt Dillon put a rare star-powered spotlight on Myanmar’s long-persecuted Rohingya Muslims, visiting a hot, squalid camp for tens of thousands displaced by violence and a port that has been one of the main launching pads for their exodus by sea.

It was “heartbreaking,” he said after meeting a young man with a raw, open leg wound from a road accident and no means to treat it.

Mothers carrying babies with clear signs of malnutrition stood listlessly outside row after row of identical bamboo huts, toddlers playing nearby in the chalky white dust.

“No one should have to live like this, people are really suffering,” said Dillon, one of the first celebrities to get a first-hand look at what life is like for Rohingya in the western state of Rakhine. “They are being strangled slowly, they have no hope for the future and nowhere to go.”

Though Rohingya have been victims of state-sponsored discrimination for decades, conditions started deteriorating three years ago after the predominantly Buddhist country of 50 million began its bumpy transition from a half-century of dictatorship to democracy.


Godzilla stomps, thrashes, breathes fire in new game that steers clear of nuke references

TOKYO (AP) - Godzillas galore, including last year’s Hollywood version, stomp on buildings, thrashing about and breathing fire, in a video game going on sale globally mid-July. But don’t expect any references to radiation, the mutant reptile’s trademark affliction.

Simply named “Godzilla,” it’s the first video game devoted to the irradiated creature in a decade. It’s also the first such game for the Sony Corp. PlayStation 4 home machine, ensuring dazzling digital graphics.

Shunsuke Fujita, the game’s producer, is flush with excitement when he speaks about how he and his team are true Godzilla believers, having grown up on the movies. They were very careful to render what he calls its “totally cool” ferocity.

In the original 1954 movie, Toho Co. studios concocted the giant animal that arose as a mutation from nuclear testing in the Pacific. That had special resonance in Japan as the only nation to have been attacked with nuclear weapons.

Gareth Edwards, the director of the 2014 Hollywood Godzilla, also made a point to include backdrop references to atomic weapons and radiation.

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