Newtown residents to join gun control march in DC
WASHINGTON (AP) — Residents from Newtown, Conn., are joining a march on Washington for gun control with parents, pastors, survivors of gun violence and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Organizers say they are expecting thousands of participants for the rally on the National Mall. They will gather Saturday at the Capitol Reflecting Pool at 10 a.m. and will march toward the Washington Monument at 11 a.m. A rally is planned on the monument grounds at noon.
Molly Smith, the artistic director of Washington's Arena Stage, organized the march following the Connecticut massacre that killed 20 first graders and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The group One Million Moms for Gun Control, the Washington National Cathedral and two other churches are co-sponsoring the march. District of Columbia and Maryland lawmakers will speak.
COMMISSION WEBSITE HACKED
Hackers take over sentencing commission website
WASHINGTON (AP) — The hacker-activist group Anonymous says it hijacked the website of the U.S. Sentencing Commission to avenge the death of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist who committed suicide.
The website of the commission, an independent agency of the judicial branch, was taken over early Saturday and replaced with a message warning that when Swartz killed himself two weeks ago "a line was crossed." The Website no appears to have been taken down.
The hackers say they've infiltrated several government computer systems and copied secret information that they now threaten to make public.
Family and friends of Swartz, who helped create Reddit and RSS, say he killed himself after he was hounded by federal prosecutors. Officials say he helped post millions of court documents for free online and that he illegally downloaded millions of academic articles from an online clearinghouse.
Obama praises nominees for SEC, consumer panel
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says his picks for two top posts will crack down on those whose irresponsible behavior threatens the U.S. economy and the middle class.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama praises his nominee to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Jo White, and his pick for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray.
Obama says White, a former federal prosecutor, will help reform Wall Street. He says Cordray will be a champion for American consumers and is imploring the Senate to confirm him.
Obama installed Cordray last year through a recess appointment after Senate Republicans opposed his nomination.
In the Republican address, South Dakota Sen. John Thune says the Senate must pass a budget that addresses out-of-control spending to stave off another credit-rating downgrade.
Egypt army to deploy after soccer verdict riot
CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian security officials say the military is being deployed to the Mediterranean city of Port Said after eight people were killed in riots outside the main prison following a controversial verdict related to one of the world's deadliest incidents of soccer violence.
A Cairo judge sentenced 21 people to death in connection with the Feb. 1, 2012, soccer melee in Port Said that killed 74 fans of the Cairo-based Al-Ahly team.
Two police were shot dead outside Port Said's main prison when angry relatives tried to storm the facility to free the defendants on trial.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd, killing six in Saturday's violence outside the prison.
Security officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
DAVOS FORUM-ASSET PRICES
Banking official: Watch those asset prices
DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — A top international finance official is warning banks to be cautious about the prices of investments that have gone up sharply because of current low interest rates.
Jaime Caruana told The Associated Press in an interview that the low interest rates may have made it difficult to assess their true value and that banks "should be vigilant on the prices of some of these assets."
He is the managing director of the Bank for International Settlements, a global organization of central banks.
Investments such as riskier U.S. corporate bonds have gone up as investors search for higher interest yields. Those investments could fall when central banks eventually start raising rates as the economy recovers.
Caruana spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
NEW: Topless protesters take on elite Davos forum
DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Three women angry over sexism and male domination of the world economy ripped off their shirts and tried to force their way into a gathering of corporate elites in a Swiss resort.
Predictably, they failed. The ubiquitous and huge security force policing the World Economic Forum in Davos carried the women away, kicking and screaming.
The women, from Ukrainian feminist activist group Femen, scaled a fence and set off pink flares in the protest Saturday. Their chests were painted with "SOS Davos," as they sought to call attention to poverty of women around the world.
Critics of the Davos forum say the business and political leaders at the gathering spend too little time doing concrete things to solve the world's problems and help the needy.
NEW: Mali residents detail civilian casualties in Konna
KONNA, Mali (AP) — Residents of a Malian town are describing civilian casualties from airstrikes used by France to drive out Islamic militants.
The Malian military allowed international journalists into Konna on Saturday for the first time since the French-led operation targeted the town two weeks ago.
Souleymane Maiga told The Associated Press how three women and one child died on Jan. 11 when their courtyard was strafed with bullets. One of the women's children survived.
Konna's mayor has confirmed that at least 11 civilians died during the military operation.
French forces launched their offensive a day after the Islamists surged southward and occupied Konna. The rebels were later driven out, and the town is now under the control of the Malian military.
US may give $32M to train African troops in Mali
SEVARE, Mali (AP) — The Obama administration is seeking an additional $32 million to train African troops to fight Islamic extremists in Mali.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Friday the request had been made to Congress.
The United States is not providing any direct aid to the Malian government because the democratically elected president was overthrown in a coup last year.
However, it has been providing aid to the French-led mission, transporting French troops and equipment to Mali.
France has some 2,400 forces in the West African nation but says it wants African nations to take the lead in fighting the extremists who rule northern Mali.
The French-led operation began on Jan. 11 after the militants surged southward from their strongholds and took the town of Konna, later recaptured by government forces.
No survivors in plane crash in Antarctica
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Search helicopters have found the wreckage of a small plane that crashed in Antarctica carrying three Canadians.
Search crews said they were not able to land at the site but that nobody could have survived the crash.
Two helicopters reached the site late Saturday after bad weather thwarted rescue efforts for three days. Crews said the wreckage was on a very steep slope near the summit of a mountain in the Queen Alexandra range and it wasn't possible to land there.
The propeller-driven de Havilland Twin Otter was flying from a U.S. station near the pole to an Italian research base in Terra Nova Bay when it disappeared Wednesday.
One of the men aboard was Bob Heath from the Northwest Territories, an experienced pilot in both the Antarctic and Arctic.
Iran official: Attack on Syria is attack on us
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A senior Iranian official says his country considers any attack against Syria an attack on itself, one of the most open statements of support yet by Tehran to its ally.
Ali Akbar Velayati, an advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted by the semiofficial Mehr news agency on Saturday as saying that Syria plays a major role in the "resistance front" of anti-Israel states and militant groups.
"For this same reason, an attack on Syria is considered an attack on Iran and Iran's allies," he says.
Iran is Syria's most important ally in the Middle East. Tehran has provided President Bashar al-Assad's government with military and political backing for years, and has kept up its strong support for the regime since the uprising began in March 2011.
BURN PIT REGISTRY
Lawmakers require VA to track effects of burn pits
WASHINGTON (AP) — Veterans are hoping a database to be set up by the Department of Veterans Affairs will help shed light on illnesses among soldiers who served near burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The burn pits were used to get rid of the garbage that accumulates at military bases, everything from Styrofoam and metal to paints, solvents and medical waste.
Scores of veterans and their families have complained over the years about illnesses they attribute to exposure to smoke from the burn pits. An Institute of Medicine report, however, was inconclusive about long-term health effects.
Lawmakers passed legislation requiring the new registry despite objections from the VA, which questioned its effectiveness.
Veterans groups say the registry could pave the way for some veterans to get disability benefits.
STAR WARS-JJ ABRAMS
Disney says JJ Abrams to direct next 'Star Wars'
LOS ANGELES (AP) — It's official. The force is with J.J. Abrams.
The Walt Disney Co. issued a statement Friday night confirming reports that had been circulating for two days that Abrams, creator of TV's "Lost" and director of 2009's "Star Trek" movie, has been pegged to direct the seventh installment of the "Star Wars" franchise.
Disney said the movie will have a script from "Toy Story 3" writer Michael Arndt and a 2015 release.
Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote two of the movies in the original trilogy, will work as a consultant on the new project.
Disney bought "Star Wars" maker Lucasfilm last month for $4.06 billion.
"Star Wars" creator George Lucas said in the statement that Abrams is the "ideal choice" of director and his legacy "couldn't be in better hands."Tags: