Saturday, March 16, 2013

Published:

A decade after shock and awe, signs of progress tempered by turbulence in today's Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) -- It's been more than six years since a bomb ripped away the eyes from Shams Karim, killed her mother and left the little girl, now 7, blind and disfigured for life. Psychiatric drugs help control her outbursts of crying and screaming.

Throughout Iraq there are tens of thousands of victims like her whose lives are forever scarred by the violence of war. Their wounds -- and those of tens of thousands of U.S. and other foreign service members -- may never entirely heal.

In Baghdad, life goes on much as it has since the Ottoman sultan ruled these parts. Porters force loaded carts through narrow bazaars as amateur breeders' beloved pigeons swoop overhead. The calls to prayer from turquoise-domed mosques provide a rhythm to the day.

Yet the legacy of a war that began a decade ago remains very much a part of life here too. Bullet holes still pockmark buildings, and towers wrecked by American missiles and tank shells have not fully been rebuilt. Iraqi soldiers in body armor corral cars into road-clogging checkpoints, their fingers close to the trigger, ever wary of the next attack. At 1 a.m., a curfew shuts down the capital's streets, many still lined with blast walls.

It's hard nowadays to find anybody in much of the country who hasn't lost a friend or relative to the bloodletting that followed the U.S.-led invasion. Shams' mother is buried among the densely packed graves in Najaf, where an ancient cemetery is at least 40 percent larger than it was before the war. Each new bombing sends more coffin-topped cars south to the hot, dusty city of the dead.

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Tour bus carrying college lacrosse team crashes in Pa., killing pregnant coach and driver

CARLISLE, Pa. (AP) -- A road trip by a college women's lacrosse team came to a horrifying end Saturday when the team bus veered off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and crashed into a tree, killing a pregnant coach, her unborn child, and the driver, and injuring numerous others, authorities said.

Seton Hill University team players and coaches were among the 23 people aboard when the bus crashed just before 9 a.m. No other vehicle was involved, and police could not immediately say what caused the accident.

Coach Kristina Quigley, 30, of Greensburg was flown to a hospital but died there of injuries she suffered in the crash, Cumberland County authorities said. Quigley was about six-months pregnant and her unborn child did not survive, authorities said. The bus driver, Anthony Guaetta, 61, of Johnstown, died at the scene.

The other passengers were removed from the bus within an hour and taken to hospitals as a precaution. The collision appeared to have shorn away the front left side of the bus, which rested upright about 70 yards from the road at the bottom of a grassy slope.

The lacrosse team was headed to play Saturday afternoon at Millersville University, about 50 miles from the crash site in central Pennsylvania, for its fourth game of the year.

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Police say Swiss tourist gang-raped in central India; 13 men questioned

NEW DELHI (AP) -- A Swiss woman who was on a cycling trip in central India with her husband has been gang-raped by eight men, police said Saturday. The attack comes three months after the fatal gang-rape of a woman aboard a New Delhi bus outraged Indians.

Authorities detained and questioned 13 men in connection with the latest attack, which occurred Friday night as the couple camped out in a forest in Madhya Pradesh state after bicycling from the temple town of Orchha, local police officer R.K. Gurjar said.

The men beat the couple and gang-raped the woman, he said. They also stole the couple's mobile phone, a laptop computer and 10,000 rupees ($185).

The woman, 39, was treated at a hospital in the nearby city of Gwalior, Gurjar said.

A photo showed the woman walking while being escorted by police to the hospital. Her face was concealed with a hood, a common practice in India, where law does not allow rape victims to be identified publicly to protect them from the stigma attached to rape in the conservative country.

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Never too early: Republicans at conservative summit audition far, far ahead of 2016 election

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) -- The auditions have begun.

Just two months into President Barack Obama's second term, Republican leaders are lining up to diagnose the GOP's ills while courting party activists -- all with an eye on greater political ambitions. They have danced around questions about their White House aspirations, but the die-hard conservatives are already picking favorites in what could be a crowded Republican presidential primary in 2016.

Thousands of activists who packed into suburban Washington's Conservative Political Action Conference gave Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul a narrow victory over Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in their unscientific presidential preference poll. Paul had 25 percent of the vote and Rubio 23 percent. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was third with 8 percent.

The freshman senators topped a pool of nearly two dozen governors and elected officials who paraded through the same ballroom stage over three days. There were passionate calls for party unity, as the party's old guard and a new generation of leaders clashed over the future of the wayward Republican Party.

First-term Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who placed sixth in the straw poll, on Saturday encouraged Republicans to be aggressive but warned them to focus on middle-class concerns: "We need to be relevant."

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Argentina served as political boot camp for a pope ready to tackle world's toughest problems

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- Pope Francis has honed his leadership skills in one of the most difficult classrooms on the planet: Argentina, where politics has long been a blood sport practiced only by the brave.

Rising through Argentina's Roman Catholic hierarchy in times of dictatorship, capitalist excess, economic crisis and populist fervor, Francis has sought to secure a place for his church in an increasingly modern, secular society.

It might be just the training a pope needs before taking on the problems of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics and helping them recover from scandals over sex abuse and feuding and corruption at the highest levels of the church's hierarchy.

"Buenos Aires is a microcosm of the world's problems. He's going to have to deal with political crises and we have political crises here. This is a scale model of the world's inequality," his former spokesman, Guillermo Marco, told The Associated Press. "But we also have wonderful people, we're passionate, we're prone to fighting .... Bergoglio is all that!"

With Argentina's justice system putting dictatorship-era officials on trial for human rights violations like never before, the Buenos Aires archbishop drew a line against blaming the church as a whole for the key support that Catholic leaders provided to the murderous 1976-1983 junta.

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Jews in Greek city mark 70th anniversary of roundup and deportation by Nazis

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) -- Jewish residents of this northern Greek city on Saturday marked the 70th anniversary of the roundup and deportation of its Jews to Nazi extermination camps during World War II.

Several hundred people gathered at Thessaloniki's Freedom Square, where the first group of Jews was rounded up by the occupying German forces on March 15, 1943.

The crowd held a moment of silence, then marched to the city's old railway station, where the first trains departed for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex. A short ceremony was held at the station and flowers laid on the tracks.

Speakers included the city's mayor, Yannis Boutaris, and Holocaust survivors.

"The commemoration is an honor for the city of Thessaloniki. But some people look upon this era nostalgically and are bringing back the old Nazi symbols," said David Saltiel, leader of the city's Jewish community. He was referring to the emergence of the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn, a party with neo-Nazi roots that swept into Parliament for the first time in June on an anti-immigrant platform.

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Francis explains name choice and calls for a 'church for the poor'

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The focus of Pope Francis' papacy began to emerge Saturday as he offered some intimate insights into the conclave that elected him pontiff, describing how he was immediately inspired to name himself after St. Francis of Assisi because he wants to see a church that is "for the poor."

His comments provided further evidence that this first Latin American papacy would be one that looks beyond the confines of the church itself to the most disadvantaged, named for a 13th-century friar who renounced a wealthy, dissolute lifestyle to embrace a life of poverty and simplicity and go out in the countryside to preach a message of joy and peace.

"Let me tell you a story," Pope Francis began in a break from his prepared text during an audience for a few thousand journalists and Vatican communications officials in the Vatican's auditorium.

Francis then described how during the conclave he was comforted by his friend, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, as the votes were going his way and it seemed "a bit dangerous" that he would reach the two-thirds necessary to be elected.

When the threshold was reached, applause erupted in the frescoed Sistine Chapel.

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AP PHOTOS: St. Pat's day across the nation

A sea of emerald green is sweeping the nation this weekend as crowds gather in big cities and small towns to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

In New York, hundreds of thousands of revelers lined the St. Patrick's Day parade route, cheering the marching bands, dance troupes and politicians.

In downtown Chicago, thousands along the Chicago River cheered as workers on a boat dumped dye into the water, turning it a bright fluorescent green for at least a few hours in an eye-catching local custom.

And in Ireland, Dublin's five-day St. Patrick's Day festival was unfolding with a new addition. For the first time, up to 8,000 visitors from around the world were due to march in a so-called people's parade on Sunday, when Ireland's capital city also intends hold its usual procession of bands and pageantry.

Here are some photos of St. Pat's celebrations around the country.

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Accuser can't recall alleged assault by Ohio high school football players, woke up naked

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (AP) -- A teenage girl who says she was raped by two Ohio high school football players testified Saturday that she could not recall what happened the night of the alleged attack but remembers waking up naked in a strange house after drinking at a party.

The 16-year-old West Virginia girl took the stand on the fourth day of the nonjury trial of Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, who both maintain their innocence. The two are charged in juvenile court, and testimony is expected to continue through the weekend.

On the stand, the girl said she remembers drinking at a party last August, leaving the party holding hands with Mays, then throwing up later. The next thing she remembers is waking up with no clothes on in a strange house, she said. Her phone, earrings, shoes, and underwear were missing, she testified.

"It was really scary, really scary," she said. "I honestly did not know what to think because I could not remember anything."

She recalled being in a car later with Mays and Richmond and asking them what happened.

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Braun, Mauer and Team USA again fail to reach WBC title game; journeyman pitcher stops stars

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Ryan Braun and Ryan Vogelsong are out, Team USA is ruined.

Either that, or a much simpler reason a club loaded with big league All-Stars got jettisoned in the World Baseball Classic: For one night, a pitcher who is the very definition of a journeyman became the best pitcher in the universe.

"As an American, I wanted them to win. It's surprising," Cincinnati outfielder Jay Bruce said. "They had a great team out there, but that's baseball."

A day after Joe Mauer, Brandon Phillips and this latest U.S. team again failed to reach the championship game, there was plenty of talk around the sport about what Friday night's 4-3 loss to Puerto Rico meant.

Some wondered whether the United States should put together an even more packed roster next time. Others say the U.S. has lost its hold on the game it invented. Many suggest the format of the tournament needs to be tweaked.