Analysis: Cantor possibly felled by immigration, likely dooming any deal on divisive issue
WASHINGTON (AP) — Immigration may have cost Majority Leader Eric Cantor his election. His defeat almost certainly dooms the issue in the House.
Cantor, R-Va., was supposed to cruise to victory in Tuesday's GOP primary over Dave Brat, an underfunded political novice who is an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College.
The only question was how wide Cantor's winning margin would be. Immigration advocates were watching intently, hoping that if it was big enough, Cantor would feel free to green-light action on immigration legislation in the House.
Instead Cantor lost, decisively, after a campaign in which Brat made immigration the central issue. Brat accused Cantor of embracing "amnesty" and open borders, signed an anti-immigration pledge, and got assists in recent weeks from conservative figures popular with tea party voters such as radio host Laura Ingraham and columnist Ann Coulter, who labeled Cantor "amnesty-addled."
Cantor fought back, boasting in strongly worded mailers of shutting down plans to grant "amnesty" to "illegal aliens" — a changed tone for a lawmaker who'd spoken out in favor of citizenship for immigrants brought illegally to this country as youths.
Deaths of 5 Americans in Afghanistan a reminder of friendly fire risk, long an element of war
WASHINGTON (AP) — The deaths of five Americans killed in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan stand as a fresh reminder of the dangers of friendly fire, an element of war that is older than the nation.
In 1758, during the French and Indian War, a detachment of the British Army led by Col. George Washington got into a firefight with a fellow infantry unit that had arrived to offer assistance. At dusk on a foggy day, they apparently mistook each other for French forces, and at least 13 British troops were killed.
In the Civil War, Confederate Lt. Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson died of pneumonia eight days after being hit by friendly fire during the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia.
In World War II, Army Lt. Gen. Lesley McNair died when an errant Allied bomb struck his position as the Allies struggled to break out from Normandy.
In Vietnam, helicopter gunships killed U.S. troops on Hamburger Hill.
US ponders whether new leadership in Baghdad could slow extremists but sees few alternatives
WASHINGTON (AP) — As a Sunni Muslim insurgency gains ground in Iraq, the United States is pondering whether the violent march could be slowed with new leadership in Baghdad after years of divisive policies pushed by the Shiite prime minister.
But with no obvious replacement for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — and no apparent intent on his part to step down — Washington is largely resigned to continue working with him for a third term as Iraq's premier.
Since the start of this year, insurgents with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have taken over several Sunni cities in the country's western Anbar province, including Fallujah, the site of two of the bloodiest battles of the eight-year war that ended in 2011 when U.S. troops left. The insurgency continued its rampage Tuesday by seizing most of the northern city of Mosul in a shocking defeat for al-Maliki's security forces that raises new questions about his ability to protect Iraq.
Both Fallujah and Mosul were insurgent hotbeds at the height of Iraq's sectarian fighting over the last decade but were largely calmed by the time U.S. troops withdrew. Less than three years later, violence across Iraq has returned to levels comparable to the darkest days of the war.
Sen. Tim Kaine, chairman of a Senate Foreign Relations panel that oversees Mideast policy, called the security situation in Iraq "extremely concerning" and said it is being exacerbated by Syria's civil war. Located about an hour east of the Syrian border, Mosul is a major way station for insurgents who routinely travel between the two countries and are seeding the Syrian war's violence in Baghdad and beyond.
Hagel to face questions from House members angry over prisoner exchange with Taliban
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will face angry lawmakers as he becomes the first Obama administration official to testify publicly about the controversial prisoner swap with the Taliban.
Hagel was scheduled to appear Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee, which is investigating the deal that secured the end of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's five-year captivity. In exchange, the U.S. transferred five high-level detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Gulf emirate of Qatar.
Republicans and some Democrats have sharply criticized the Obama administration for not informing Congress in advance, with some accusing the president of breaking a law requiring 30-day notification of any Guantanamo prisoner release. Other questions center on whether Bergdahl deserted and whether the U.S. gave up too much for his freedom. Members of Congress have cited intelligence suggesting the detainees could return to the battlefield in Afghanistan.
Hagel will explain why the decision to make the trade was "the right one," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman. The administration had a "very small, fleeting opportunity" to secure Bergdahl's release and grabbed the chance, he said.
Kirby's description of a small window for the agreement meshed with comments by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who told reporters Tuesday that the administration finalized the exchange only a day before it took place on May 31. The Senate's No. 2-ranked Democrat also said American officials didn't learn the pickup location for Bergdahl until an hour ahead of time, making the question of advance notification irrelevant.
House bill finished, Senate comes next as Congress moves to give veterans faster medical care
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is moving with what one senator called "lightning speed" to help thousands of military veterans enduring long wait times for VA medical care.
The Senate was poised to vote by Thursday on a measure making it easier for veterans who have encountered delays getting initial visits to receive VA-paid treatment from local doctors instead. The measure closely resembles a bill approved unanimously Tuesday in the House, prompting optimism among lawmakers from both parties that a compromise version could be on its way soon to President Barack Obama for his signature.
"Maybe we can show the United States of America that people can come together on a very, very important issue and do it in rapid fashion," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
"It's urgent that we get this done to resolve some of the outstanding issues within the VA," added Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.
In a rare moment of agreement with Reid, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell also was upbeat about the prospects of the veterans bill.
Families hoped for children's safety during 3-hour wait after deadly Oregon school shooting
TROUTDALE, Ore. (AP) — They stopped in fire lanes, on medians, in spaces so tight one man wedged his sedan between two cars and climbed out of his sun roof. They double-, triple- or quadruple-parked, spilling into driveways and crosswalks, disregarding every traffic law.
The loved ones of the children at Reynolds High School in the Portland, Oregon, suburb of Troutdale knew that a student was shot to death during the second-to-last day of school. And they knew the shooter was dead.
They also knew that the 3,000 children who survived would be waiting for them at a grocery store parking lot a mile away.
Details spilled out in fits and starts on Tuesday. The shooting started in a gym detached from the main school building. A 14-year-old boy named Emilio Hoffman was fatally shot in the boys' locker room. Physical education teacher Todd Rispler also was in the gym and was grazed by a bullet.
But he escaped serious injury and managed to alert school officials of the shooter.
Special K: Leonard has a career night and Spurs top Heat 111-92 in Game 3 of NBA Finals
MIAMI (AP) — The last time Kawhi Leonard scored this many points in a real basketball game, he was starring at Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, California.
Never in college.
Never in the NBA, either.
Until Tuesday night, that is.
And on the same floor where he missed a free throw that could have cost the San Antonio Spurs the title a year ago, he more than atoned in Game 3 of these NBA Finals. Leonard scored 29 points, his highest total since those high school days, to lead a display of offensive wizardry that carried the Spurs to a 111-92 win over the Miami Heat.
Syrian woman survives 700 day blockade with books, eating plants, refusing to look in mirror
HOMS, Syria (AP) — Over the course of the 700-day blockade, her world shrunk to her living room and her kitchen. She survived by eating plants and reading books. She refused to look in the mirror, because seeing her withered state might break her spirit.
Zeinat Akhras, a 65-year-old pharmacist, still bears the effects of nearly two years trapped in her home, surrounded by rebel fighters during the government's siege on the ancient quarters of the central Syrian city of Homs. She's still a wispy 38 kilograms (83 pounds), even after gaining four kilograms (eight pounds) since the blockade ended in early May with the fall of the rebels in the city.
"Every day, we said it will end tomorrow," Akhras said in a recent interview with The Associated Press in her home. "If we counted the number of days, we would have given up."
Homs' Old City, a series of crowded neighborhoods, was under siege and bombardment in a campaign by government forces to starve out rebels. Homs had been one of the first to rise up against the rule of President Bashar Assad with protests in March 2011, turning the city into a battleground as government forces cracked down and opponents took up arms.
Government forces clamped the seal over the opposition-held districts in early 2012. Most of the tens of thousands of residents of the areas had already fled. With the siege dragging on, rebels began deserting as hunger spread, and morale collapsed in late 2013. Finally, the last few dozen fighters were evacuated in May to areas further north under a cease-fire, and government forces took full control of the city.
From the bold to the classic, this year's World Cup uniforms again pushing fashion envelope
SAO PAULO (AP) — The World Cup uniforms will provide a carnival of color and fashion, from Brazil's bright yellow jerseys to the Netherlands' classic orange to Croatia's red checkered home kit and the superhero-inspired looks of Mexico.
The 2014 tournament, which opens Thursday when Brazil hosts Croatia, features the classics, the creative and the downright outlandish.
The Americans' new red, white and blue color-block road jerseys — critics say they resemble Domino's Pizza delivery uniforms — can't be as bad as the memorable faux denim outfits from 1994. But the vote is still out on how the newest outfit for the Stars and Stripes will go over.
"The USA jersey feels very patriotic," said Los Angeles designer and stylist Estée Stanley of Estée Stanley Design. "It's easy to identify the country as the U.S."
The U.S. isn't the only nation trying the block style.
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