AP World and National News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. June 12th, 2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Poll: Political polarization broader than ever before, extends far beyond the voting booth

WASHINGTON (AP) — Political polarization in America has broken out of the voting booth.

A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds Americans are divided by ideology and partisanship not only when they cast ballots, but also in choosing where to live, where to get their news and with whom to associate.

And peaceful coexistence is increasingly difficult.

According to the poll, the share of Americans who hold across-the-board conservative or liberal views has doubled in the last decade, from 10 percent in 2004 to 21 percent today. Only 39 percent of Americans have an even mix of liberal and conservative positions, down from 49 percent 10 years ago.

The numbers of ideological purists are larger among the politically engaged than the general public, suggesting the ideological stalemates that have become more common in Washington and statehouses around the country are likely to continue. A third of those who say they regularly vote in primaries have all-or-nothing ideological views, as do 41 percent who say they have donated money to a campaign.

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After 2 votes, Congress hopes to send veterans' health care bill to White House

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — After two overwhelming votes in two days, members of Congress say they are confident they can agree on a bill to improve veterans' health care and send it to the president's desk by the end of the month.

The Senate easily approved a bill Wednesday to help shorten wait times for thousands of military veterans seeking medical care, a day after the House unanimously adopted a similar measure.

The Senate bill would authorize about $35 billion over three years to pay for outside care for veterans, as well as hire hundreds of doctors and nurses and lease 26 new health facilities in 17 states and Puerto Rico. The House would spend about $620 million over the same period.

Just three lawmakers — all Republican senators — voted against the veterans measures, compared with 519 lawmakers who voted in favor.

Opponents said the Senate bill was a "blank check" to spend billions of dollars with little or no way to rein it in.

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For White House, Cantor's defeat eliminates an irritant but brings little joy

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — For years, the White House saw House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as a chief driver of Republicans' staunch opposition to nearly all of President Barack Obama's agenda. Now, Cantor's stunning primary loss seems likely to make politics even more difficult for Obama.

Rather than opening a pathway for the president, Cantor's defeat could push Republicans more to the right and harden the House GOP's hostility toward the White House, virtually dooming Obama's efforts to pass a legacy-building immigration bill or other major legislation.

Robert Gibbs, a longtime Obama adviser, said any glee at the White House over Cantor's defeat was "quickly replaced by the reality that this is the end of anything productive getting done legislatively in Congress either this year or maybe for the next several years."

Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, was soundly defeated by his tea party-backed opponent, a little-known economics professor named David Brat, in Virginia's GOP primary Tuesday. Despite being massively outspent by Cantor, Brat rode a wave of public anger over calls for more lenient immigration laws, reducing the prospects that already reluctant House Republicans might take up a bill this year.

The day after his defeat, Cantor announced he would serve out his term but resign his leadership post this summer, sparking a flurry of maneuvering among GOP lawmakers eager to take his spot.

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Al-Qaida-inspired group vows to march on to Baghdad after seizing 2 key cities in Iraq

 

BAGHDAD (AP) — The al-Qaida-inspired group that led the charge in capturing two key Sunni-dominated cities in Iraq this week vowed Thursday to march on to Baghdad, raising fears about the Shiite-led government's ability to slow the assault following the insurgents' lightning gains.

Fighters from the militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on Wednesday took Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, as soldiers and security forces abandoned their posts and yielded ground once controlled by U.S. forces.

That seizure followed the capture of much of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, the previous day. The group and its allies among local tribesmen also hold the city of Fallujah and other pockets of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province to the west of Baghdad.

A spokesman for the Islamic State said the group has old scores to settle with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government in Baghdad. The Iraqi leader, a Shiite, is trying to hold onto power after indecisive elections in April.

Al-Maliki has called on parliament to declare a state of emergency that would give him the "necessary powers" to run the country — something legal experts said could include powers to impose curfews, restrict public movements and censor the media. Lawmakers are expected to consider that request later today.

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Officials look at work commute in accident that injured Tracy Morgan; driver pleads not guilty

 

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Accident investigators are looking into what role a truck driver's commute played in the fatal New Jersey Turnpike crash that also injured comedian Tracy Morgan.

Wal-Mart driver Kevin Roper, who pleaded not guilty to death by auto and assault by auto charges on Wednesday, lived in Georgia, but his job was based in Delaware, said National Transportation Safety Board spokeswoman Kelly Nantel.

A criminal complaint alleges that the 35-year-old Roper, of Jonesboro, Georgia, hadn't slept for more than 24 hours before the accident when he allegedly swerved to avoid slowed traffic on the turnpike and plowed into Morgan's limo early Saturday.

Wal-Mart has not explained what Roper's driving route was. The company has said it believes he was in compliance with federal safety regulations.

Roper's bail was kept at $50,000. Roper and his attorney, David Glassman, refused to answer reporters' questions after the hearing about whether Roper was the author of tweets from a Twitter account bearing his name and featuring his picture and calling reports of his not having slept for 24 hours before the accident "complete BS!"

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OSCE chief visits Ukraine refugees in Russia, calls for fighting to stop

 

MOSCOW (AP) — The secretary-general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is visiting a camp in Russia for refugees from the conflict in Ukraine's east and calling for the fighting to stop.

According to the Interfax news agency, Lamberto Zannier said Thursday that the conflict in the east "is craziness which must be stopped."

Zannier's appearance before the refugees at a holiday complex in Dmitriadovka, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Ukrainian border, underlined the prominent role being played by the OSCE in the Ukraine crisis. Russia, which Kiev and the West allege has fomented the separatist unrest in the east, has spoken strongly in support of an OSCE-proposed "road map" for ending the conflict.

Russia says some 30,000 people have fled the fighting.

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After years of problematic preparations, World Cup kicks off with Brazil vs Croatia

SAO PAULO (AP) — The problem-plagued preparations have been well chronicled, with critics condemning the range of issues from budget blowouts to construction delays.

Organizers need Brazil to kick off the tournament with a win over Croatia on Thursday to shift the focus back to what the host nation really cares about: winning a sixth World Cup. Brazil hasn't hosted the tournament since 1950, when it lost to Uruguay in the title match, and that only adds to local expectations.

"We have to do everything possible to win this World Cup," Brazil midfielder Ramires said. "We know everybody is expecting us to do it."

With that in mind, let the games begin.

Here are some things to look for Thursday:

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Subway strike in Sao Paulo averted on eve of World Cup as Rio airport workers walk off job

 

SAO PAULO (AP) — A subway strike in Sao Paulo that threatened to disrupt the opening of the World Cup was averted Wednesday night even as airport workers in Rio de Janeiro declared a 24-hour work stoppage in the main destination for soccer fans traveling to Brazil.

Some 1,500 subway workers in Sao Paulo voted against going back on strike in a pay dispute. They had suspended the walkout Monday amid a popular backlash and government pressure to end the transportation chaos in Brazil's biggest city.

"We thought that right now it's better to wait," union president Altino Prazeres said, but added that he wouldn't rule out resuming the strike sometime during the monthlong soccer tournament. "We get the feeling that maybe we aren't as prepared for a full confrontation with police on the day the World Cup starts."

The union said its members would hold a march Thursday morning demanding that 42 workers fired during the five-day work stoppage are rehired.

World Cup organizers are counting on Sao Paulo's subway system to carry tens of thousands of fans Thursday to Itaquerao stadium, where Brazil will play Croatia in the tournament's first game far from the hotel areas where most tourists are staying.

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Texas' Perry makes refers to alcoholism to explain view of homosexuality

 

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, during a visit that focused primarily on economic issues, drew on a reference to alcoholism to explain his view of homosexuality.

Perry's comments to the Commonwealth Club of California came after Texas' Republican Convention on Saturday sanctioned platform language allowing Texans to seek voluntary counseling to "cure" being gay.

The San Francisco Chronicle http://bit.ly/1oWq0qRhttp://bit.ly/1oWq0qR reports that in response to a question about it, Perry said he did not know whether the therapy worked.

Perry, a former and potential future GOP presidential candidate, was then asked whether he believed homosexuality was a disorder.

The paper says that the governor responded that "whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that."

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Lawyers say General Motors wants to use bankruptcy as shield from wrongful death lawsuit

 

DETROIT (AP) — Lawyers for a Georgia family that is trying to reopen a wrongful death lawsuit against General Motors say the company is trying to move the case to federal court so it can use bankruptcy as a shield from the claim.

The lawyers, Lance Cooper and Jere Beasley, said Wednesday in a statement that GM's court filings run counter to a promise made by GM CEO Mary Barra to fairly compensate families of people killed or those injured in crashes caused by defective ignition switches.

GM spokesman Greg Martin called the company's filings procedural.

A federal bankruptcy judge in New York ruled in 2009 that the new GM is shielded from claims stemming from cars made before the company emerged from bankruptcy protection. Instead, the claims go against the old GM, which has limited assets. The judge now is being asked to decide if he will allow claims against the new company.

Cooper and Beasley say moving the case to federal court would allow the company to use the bankruptcy to send claims to the old GM.

 

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