Monday, March 18, 2013

Published:

Plan to seize deposits angers account holders in Cyprus; global markets largely stay calm

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) -- A plan to seize up to 10 percent of savings accounts in Cyprus to help pay for a €15.8 billion ($20.4 billion) financial bailout was met with fury Monday, and the government shut down banks until later this week while lawmakers wrangled over how to keep the island nation from bankruptcy.

Though the euro and stock prices of European banks fell, global financial markets largely remained calm, and there was little sense that bank account holders elsewhere across the continent faced similar risk.

Political leaders in Cyprus scrambled to devise a new plan that would not be so burdensome for people with less than €100,000 ($129,290) in the bank.

The authorities delayed a parliamentary vote on the seizure of €5.8 billion ($7.5 billion)and ordered banks to remain shut until Thursday while they try to modify the deal, which must be approved by other eurozone governments. Once a deal is in place, they will be ready to lend Cyprus €10 billion ($13 billion) in rescue loans.

A rejection of the package could see the country go bankrupt and possibly drop out of the euro currency -- an outcome that would be even more damaging to financial markets' confidence.

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Police say Fla. college student plots deadly attack, then backs off and commits suicide

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- A college student with two guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a backpack filled with explosives pulled a dorm fire alarm Monday in an apparent attempt to force other students out into the open so that he could slaughter them, authorities said. But he instead put a bullet in his head as police closed in.

James Oliver Seevakumaran, 30, was found dead in his dorm room at the 51,000-student Orlando campus of the University of Central Florida. No one else was hurt.

"His timeline got off," university Police Chief Richard Beary said. "We think the rapid response of law enforcement may have changed his ability to think quickly on his feet."

Some 500 students were evacuated from the building in the middle of the night, unaware how narrowly they had escaped what could have been another Virginia Tech-style bloodbath.

"It could have been a very bad day here for everybody. All things considered, I think we were very blessed here," Beary said. "Anybody armed with this type of weapon and ammunition could have hurt a lot of people here, particularly in a crowded area as people were evacuating."

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Supreme Court justices split over whether states can ask for proof of citizenship to register

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Supreme Court justices disagreed Monday over whether states can require would-be voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before using a federal registration system designed to make signing up easier.

Arizona and other states told the justices the precaution is needed to keep illegal immigrants and other noncitizens from voting. But some justices asked whether states have the right to force people to document their citizenship when Congress ordered the states to accept and use federal "motor voter" registration cards that only ask registrants to swear on paper that they are U.S. citizens.

"I have a real big disconnect with how you can be saying you're accepting and using, when you're not registering people when they use it the way the federal law permits them to," Justice Sonia Sotomayor said to Arizona Attorney General Thomas C. Horne.

Said Horne: "It is the burden of the states to determine the eligibility of the voters."

This is the second voting eligibility issue the high court is tackling this session. Last month, several justices voiced deep skepticism about whether a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law that has helped millions of minorities exercise their right to vote, especially in areas of the Deep South, was still needed.

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Clinton's embrace of gay marriage joins other Dems for 2016, but issue remains divisive in GOP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton's embrace of gay marriage Monday signals she may be seriously weighing a 2016 presidential run and trying to avoid the type of late-to-the-party caution that hurt her first bid.

Her chief Democratic rivals endorsed same-sex marriage as much as seven years ago, and it's widely popular with Democratic and independent voters.

By supporting gay marriage a full two years before the next presidential primary warms up, Clinton may render the issue largely settled among Democrats, should she decide to run.

But things could be vastly different in the November 2016 general election, regardless who wins the Democratic nomination. That nominee is virtually certain to support same-sex marriage, whereas there's a strong possibility the Republican nominee will not.

That could be a problem for the GOP nominee if same-sex marriage becomes a prominent issue. A poll released Monday shows a dramatic shift in attitudes about legalizing gay marriage, with 58 percent of Americans now supporting it.

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Opposition Syrian National Coalition elects Ghassan Hitto to head interim government

ISTANBUL (AP) -- Syria's opposition coalition has elected Ghassan Hitto to serve as prime minister of its interim government.

Hitto received 35 votes out of 49 ballots cast early Tuesday during a coalition meeting in Istanbul.

Hitto is expected to select ministers in the coming days. The coalition hopes his government can administer areas in Syria that rebel forces have seized from the regime of President Bashar Assad.

It remains unclear, however, if the hundreds of rebel brigades fighting Assad's forces in Syria will accept the government's authority.

Hitto was born in Damascus in 1963 and has lived in the United States for decades, most recently in Wayne, Texas. He has worked in technology and for various Islam-related causes.

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Republicans unveil recommendations for a rebound but tip toe around the details

WASHINGTON (AP) -- This was to be a roadmap for a new, more inclusive GOP: attract minority voters, support immigration reform and embrace "welcoming and inclusive" attitudes on gay rights. But minutes after unveiling the proposal on Monday, the party chairman distanced himself from it, and some conservatives and tea partyers balked.

It all illustrated the GOP's precarious balance as it works to unite battling factions.

"This is not my report," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus told reporters, describing the contents as simply recommendations by a five-person panel -- even though he was the person who had commissioned the self-audit after the party lost a second consecutive presidential election last fall. He made the comments immediately after declaring Monday "Day One" of the party's push to change perceptions the audit uncovered -- that the GOP is "narrow minded," ''out of touch" and "stuffy old men."

"The perception that we're the party of the rich unfortunately continues to grow," Priebus said as he released the report, drawn up by panelists with strong ties to "big-tent" Republicans who have long favored more inclusive policies opposed by ideological purists.

Conservative and tea party criticism was immediate, a sign that the prescriptions may end up widening existing divides rather than building new bridges in an evolving GOP.

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Former Oklahoma QB, friend die in Ind. plane crash; NTSB says pair working as flight crew

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- People who knew former Oklahoma quarterback Steve Davis say his passion for flying began before he arrived at the school and led the Sooners to back-to-back national championships in the 1970s.

He and friend Wes Caves, a Tulsa, Okla., businessman, were the flight crew on the private jet, owned by Caves, that crashed into a northern Indiana neighborhood, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Todd Fox said Monday. Davis, 60, and Caves, 58, died. Three others were injured, including two passengers.

Fox said he had minimal information about the pilots, but said both had pilots' certificates and both had multi-engine aircraft certificates. The voice box recorder was recovered and is being sent to Washington, D.C., for investigation, Fox said, adding that the NTSB doesn't know why the plane was headed to South Bend.

Patsy Davis said she believed it was possible her son would have been in the co-pilot's seat. It wasn't immediately clear who was at the controls when it crashed.

"He hadn't flown for a while, but as far as we know, he was still a licensed pilot. He didn't own a plane," she said Monday.

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Bankruptcy trustee wants to sell Casey Anthony's life story so she can pay her debts

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The trustee overseeing Casey Anthony's bankruptcy case has filed a motion to sell the rights to her story so she can pay her debts.

In a motion filed Friday in federal court in Tampa, trustee Stephen Meininger asked Judge K. Rodney May for permission to sell the "exclusive worldwide rights" of Anthony's life story.

Anthony, who is now 26, was acquitted of murder in 2011 in the death her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.

Anthony has never told her side of the story, despite intense media scrutiny of the case.

During a meeting with creditors in her bankruptcy case in Tampa on March 4, Anthony said she was unemployed and hasn't received any money to tell her story. She said that she is living with friends and that those friends -- and strangers who send her gift cards and cash -- help her survive.

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Lindsay Lohan will go to lock-down rehab program as part of plea deal in car crash case

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Lindsay Lohan isn't headed back to jail -- but she won't be free to party for a while either.

The troubled 26-year-old actress accepted a plea deal on Monday in a misdemeanor car crash case that includes 90 days in a locked-down rehabilitation facility that she won't be able to leave.

Lohan, who has struggled for years with legal problems and been briefly jailed five times, pleaded no contest to reckless driving and lying to police who were investigating the accident involving the actress in June along Pacific Coast Highway.

A charge of obstructing an officer was dropped.

Lohan also was found in violation of her probation in a 2011 necklace theft and sentenced to 180 days in jail.

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Fuzzy math: In filling out March Madness brackets, the numbers don't always add up

Professor Michael Magazine is upending the logical world of math with a good dose of March Madness.

Magazine teaches a new class called Bracketology at University of Cincinnati, the home of the 10th-seeded Bearcats, where 33 business students are spending the semester trying to make sense out of what can feel nonsensical at times -- the art of filling out an NCAA tournament bracket.

"The life lesson is that we make a lot of decisions that are the right decisions," Magazine says, "but the outcomes don't always come out the way we planned."

And that's why picking the NCAA tournament is so much fun.

Magazine says that, yes, he's among the millions of Americans who take part in the country's largest office pool -- where all you need is a pen, a copy of the bracket and $10 or $20 to get in on the action.