GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 30, 2013

Around the World and Nation


Associated Press

---- — US could take action alone against Syria

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday prepared for the possibility of launching unilateral American military action against Syria within days as Britain opted out in a stunning vote by Parliament. Facing skepticism at home, too, the administration shared intelligence with lawmakers aimed at convincing them the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people and must be punished.

Despite roadblocks in forming an international coalition, Obama appeared undeterred and advisers said he would be willing to retaliate against Syria on his own.

“The president of the United States is elected with the duty to protect the national security interests in the United States of America,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Even before the vote in London, the U.S. was preparing to act without formal authorization from the United Nations, where Russia has blocked efforts to seek a resolution authorizing the use of force, or from Capitol Hill. But the U.S. had expected Britain, a major ally, to join in the effort.

Top U.S. officials spoke with certain lawmakers for more than 90 minutes in a teleconference Thursday evening to explain why they believe Bashar Assad’s government was the culprit in a suspected chemical attack last week. Lawmakers from both parties have been pressing Obama to provide a legal rationale for military action and specify objectives, as well as to lay out a firm case linking Assad to the attack.

Britain’s Cameron loses Syria war vote

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vote endorsing military action against Syria by 13 votes Thursday, a stunning defeat that will almost guarantee that Britain plays no direct role in any U.S. attack on Bashar Assad’s government.

A grim-faced Cameron conceded after the vote that “the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action.”

The prime minister said that while he still believed in a “tough response” to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad’s regime, he would respect the will of Parliament.

Responding to the vote, the White House said that a decision on a possible military strike against Syria will be guided by America’s best interests, suggesting the U.S. may act alone if other nations won’t help.

The defeat was as dramatic as it was unexpected. At the start of the week, Cameron had seemed poised to join Washington in possible military action against Assad. The suspected chemical weapons attacks took place Aug. 21 in suburbs east and west of Damascus. The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders has said the strikes killed 355 people.

Feds won’t sue to stop marijuana use

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite 75 years of federal marijuana prohibition, the Justice Department said Thursday that states can let people use the drug, license people to grow it and even allow adults to stroll into stores and buy it — as long as the weed is kept away from kids, the black market and federal property.

In a sweeping new policy statement prompted by pot legalization votes in Washington and Colorado last fall, the department gave the green light to states to adopt tight regulatory schemes to oversee the medical and recreational marijuana industries burgeoning across the country.

The action, welcomed by supporters of legalization, could set the stage for more states to legalize marijuana. Alaska could vote on the question next year, and a few other states plan similar votes in 2016.

The policy change embraces what Justice Department officials called a “trust but verify” approach between the federal government and states that enact recreational drug use.

NFL agrees to pay $765M to settle concussion cases

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The NFL agreed to pay more than three-quarters of a billion dollars to settle lawsuits from thousands of former players who developed dementia or other concussion-related health problems they say were caused by the very on-field violence that fueled the game’s rise to popularity and profit.

The settlement, unprecedented in sports, was announced Thursday after two months of court-ordered mediation and is subject to approval by a federal judge. It came exactly a week before the first game of the 2013 season, removing a major legal and financial threat hanging over the sport for two years.

U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody in Philadelphia is expected to rule on the settlement in two to three months but said it “holds the prospect of avoiding lengthy, expensive and uncertain litigation, and of enhancing the game of football.”

More than 4,500 former players, some of them suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or depression, accused the NFL of concealing the long-term dangers of concussions and rushing injured players back onto the field, while glorifying and profiting from the bone-crushing hits that were often glorified in slow motion on NFL Films.

J&J puts warnings on Tylenol caps

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bottles of Tylenol sold in the U.S. will soon bear red warnings alerting users to the potentially fatal risks of taking too much of the popular pain reliever. The unusual step, disclosed by the company that makes Tylenol, comes amid a growing number of lawsuits and pressure from the federal government that could have widespread ramifications for a medicine taken by millions of people every day.

Johnson & Johnson says the warning will appear on the cap of new bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol sold in the U.S. starting in October and on most other Tylenol bottles in coming months. The warning will make it explicitly clear that the over-the-counter drug contains acetaminophen, a pain-relieving ingredient that is the nation’s leading cause of sudden liver failure.

“We’re always looking for ways to better communicate information to patients and consumers,” says Dr. Edwin Kuffner, vice president of McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the Johnson & Johnson unit that makes Tylenol.

Overdoses from acetaminophen send 55,000 to 80,000 people in the U.S. to the emergency room each year and kill at least 500, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. Acetaminophen can be found in more than 600 over-the-counter and prescription products used by nearly one in four American adults every week, including household brands like Nyquil cold formula, Excedrin pain tablets and Sudafed sinus pills.

Tylenol is the first of these products to include such a warning label on the bottle cap. McNeil says the warning is a result of research into the misuse of Tylenol by consumers. The new cap message will read: “CONTAINS ACETAMINOPHEN” and “ALWAYS READ THE LABEL.”

Victim’s mom rejects judge’s apology over rape comments

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The mother of a 14-year-old girl who was raped by her teacher and later committed suicide appeared at a raucous protest against the judge who sentenced the man to a month in jail and said the victim was “older than her chronological age.”

The protest came as prosecutors considered an appeal of the sentence by Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh, whose actions in the case have drawn condemnation from across the country. Joining in the backlash was Montana’s governor, who said the judge’s comments “made me angry.”

The victim’s mother, Auliea (ah-LEE-ah) Hanlon, said the judge was merely “covering his butt” when he apologized on Wednesday for his comments. She criticized him for standing by the relatively light sentence given to former Billings Senior High School teacher Stacey Rambold.

“He’s just covering his butt. He wouldn’t have said anything if people hadn’t spoken up,” Hanlon told an Associated Press reporter. “He didn’t reverse his decision, so it’s irrelevant.”

Hanlon’s daughter, Cherice Moralez, killed herself before Rambold’s case came to trial.

White House pursues modest steps on gun control

WASHINGTON (AP) — Months after gun control efforts crumbled in Congress, Vice President Joe Biden stood shoulder to shoulder Thursday with the attorney general and the top U.S. firearms official and declared the Obama administration would take two new steps to curb American gun violence.

But the narrow, modest scope of those steps served as pointed reminders that without congressional backing, President Barack Obama’s capacity to make a difference is severely inhibited.

Still, Biden renewed a pledge from him and the president to seek legislative fixes to keep guns from those who shouldn’t have them — a pledge with grim prospects for fulfillment amid the current climate on Capitol Hill.

“If Congress won’t act, we’ll fight for a new Congress,” Biden said in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. “It’s that simple. But we’re going to get this done.”

One new policy will bar military-grade weapons that the U.S. sells or donates to allies from being imported back into the U.S. by private entities. In the last eight years, the U.S. has approved 250,000 of those guns to come back to the U.S., the White House said, arguing that some end up on the streets. From now on, only museums and a few other entities like the government will be eligible to reimport military-grade firearms.

Husband agonizes during 911 call over killing sick wife

LONDON, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky man called 911 just minutes after killing his wife, sobbing and confessing to a dispatcher that he fatally shot the cancer-stricken woman, and asking to take a last look at her before his arrest, according to recordings released Thursday.

Ernest Chris Chumbley, 48, cries throughout the 16-minute call placed around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday and says he shot the woman twice in the face with a .32-caliber handgun in their southeastern Kentucky home. He said in a jailhouse interview after the shooting that he shot his wife to end her pain from terminal breast cancer.

“Give me police, I’m under arrest,” Chumbley says on the call.

Chumbley has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge and is being held in jail on a $200,000 bond. He is being kept in a single isolation cell, which is monitored continuously by video, Laurel County Jailer Jamie Mosley said Thursday afternoon.

Police found 44-year-old Virginia Chumbley’s body in the bedroom when they arrived.

Worried about being late paying your bills? That may cost you fees and IQ points, study finds

WASHINGTON (AP) — Being short on cash may make you a bit slower in the brain, a new study suggests.

People worrying about having enough money to pay their bills tend to lose temporarily the equivalent of 13 IQ points, scientists found when they gave intelligence tests to shoppers at a New Jersey mall and farmers in India.

The idea is that financial stress monopolizes thinking, making other calculations slower and more difficult, sort of like the effects of going without sleep for a night.

And this money-and-brain crunch applies, albeit to a smaller degree, to about 100 million Americans who face financial squeezes, say the team of economists and psychologists who wrote the study published in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

“Our paper isn’t about poverty. It’s about people struggling to make ends meet,” said Sendhil Mullainathan, a Harvard economist and study co-author. “When we think about people who are financially stressed, we think they are short on money, but the truth is they are also short on cognitive capacity.”

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Louisiana chimpanzee wins $10K grand prize for sanctuary in Humane Society of US art contest

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A painting by a 37-year-old Louisiana primate who applies color with his tongue instead of a brush has been deemed the finest chimpanzee art in the land.

Brent, a retired laboratory animal, was the top vote-getter in an online chimp art contest organized by the Humane Society of the United States, which announced the results Thursday. He won $10,000 for the Chimp Haven sanctuary in northwest Louisiana.

A Chimp Haven spokeswoman said Brent was unavailable for comment Thursday. “I think he’s asleep,” Ashley Gordon said.

But as the society said on its website, “The votes are in, so let the pant hooting begin!” — pant hooting being the characteristic call of an excited chimp.

Five other sanctuaries around the country competed, using paintings created during “enrichment sessions,” which can include any of a wide variety of activities and playthings.