UN schedules Wednesday vote on new Syria resolution, Russia and West at odds over sanctions
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia remained at loggerheads with the U.S. and its European allies ahead of a scheduled vote Wednesday afternoon on a new Syria resolution and there appeared to be little hope that the U.N.'s most powerful body would unite behind a plan to end the 17-month civil war in the Mideastern country.
The key stumbling block is the Western demand for a resolution threatening non-military sanctions and tied to Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, which could eventually allow the use of force to end the conflict in Syria.
Russia is adamantly opposed to any mention of sanctions or Chapter 7. After Security Council consultations late Tuesday on a revised draft resolution pushed by Moscow, Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Alexander Pankin said these remain "red lines."
Russia has said it will veto any Chapter 7 resolution, but council diplomats said there is still a possibility of last-minute negotiations.
There has been a lot of diplomatic scrambling to try to get council unity, which would send a much stronger signal to Syria. International envoy Kofi Annan has been in Russia for two days of high-level meetings, including talks with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.
Obama administration plans $1 billion to reward top teachers in math, science and engineering
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration unveiled plans Wednesday to create an elite corps of master teachers, a $1 billion effort to boost U.S. students' achievement in science, technology, engineering and math.
The program to reward high-performing teachers with salary stipends is part of a long-term effort by President Barack Obama to encourage education in high-demand areas that hold the key to future economic growth — and to close the achievement gap between American students and their international peers.
Teachers selected for the Master Teacher Corps will be paid an additional $20,000 a year and must commit to participate multiple years. The goal is to create a multiplier effect in which expert educators share their knowledge and skills with other teachers, improving the quality of education for all students.
Speaking at a rally for his re-election campaign in San Antonio on Tuesday, Obama framed his emphasis on expanded education funding as a point of contrast with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, whom he accused of prioritizing tax cuts for the wealthy over reinvestment in the nation.
"I'm running to make sure that America has the best education system on earth, from pre-K all the way to post-graduate," Obama said. "And that means hiring new teachers, especially in math and science."
FDA approves Vivus' anti-obesity pill associated with significant weight loss in patients
WASHINGTON (AP) — A new weight-loss pill that many doctors consider the most effective of a new generation of anti-obesity drugs got the approval of the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday.
The pill, called Qsymia, was approved for patients who are overweight or obese and also have at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol.
The drug offers hope for those who have failed to lose weight in other ways, but its path to approval also underscores how difficult it has been for drugmakers to find obesity treatments that are safe and effective.
The drug's maker, Vivus Inc., said it plans to bring the drug to market in the fourth quarter of this year. It hasn't yet decided what the pills will cost.
In testing, the drug made led patients to lose more weight than two other weight-loss pills recently review by the FDA. Patients taking Qsymia for a year lost 6.7 percent of their body weight in one study and 8.9 percent in another study, the FDA said. The company said patients on the strongest formulation tested lost nearly 11 percent of their weight.
Bernanke returns to Capitol Hill after warning that budget impasse could lead to recession
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, one day after sketching a bleak picture of the U.S. economy and warning it will darken further if Congress doesn't reach agreement soon to avert a budget crisis.
Bernanke is giving his twice-a-year report to Congress on the state of the economy. He will testify to the House Financial Services Committee. On Tuesday, he spoke to the Senate Banking Committee.
Without a congressional agreement, tax increases and deep spending cuts would take effect at year's end. Bernanke noted Tuesday what the Congressional Budget Office has warned: A recession would occur, and 1.25 million fewer jobs would be created in 2013.
The Fed is prepared to take further action to try to help the economy if unemployment stays high, he said. Bernanke didn't signal what steps the Fed might take or whether any action was imminent. And he noted there's only so much the Fed can do.
But the Fed chairman made clear his most urgent concern is what would happen to the economy if Congress can't resolve its budget impasse before the year ends.
More states passing laws against prosecuting people who call 911 to report drug overdoes
WASHINGTON (AP) — The morning after Salvatore Marchese left his mother's house for a session of outpatient treatment for his heroin addiction, he was found slumped behind the wheel of her car, dead of an overdose. He apparently hadn't been alone: His wallet was missing and the car's passenger seat left in a reclined position. But whoever was with him when he was using drugs was long gone by the time the police arrived.
When Patty DiRenzo learned what happened to her son, she wondered: "How could somebody leave somebody to die?"
Now, DiRenzo, of Blackwood, N.J., is part of a nationwide push to make sure people won't be too afraid of being arrested to call 911 when they or someone they're with has overdosed. Eight states have passed laws in the past five years that give people limited immunity on drug possession charges if they seek medical help for an overdose. A similar proposal is being considered in the District of Columbia but faces uncertain prospects because of opposition from police and prosecutors.
"It's really common sense — just to make it easier for people to call 911 by addressing what people have said is sort of their single-greatest fear in delaying or not calling 911 at all," said Meghan Ralston, harm reduction coordinator of the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York-based nonprofit that works to change current drug policies.
The measures have encountered resistance from some police officials and law-and-order legislators, who say the proposals are tantamount to get-out-of-jail-free cards, condone drug use, and could prevent police from investigating illicit drug dealing or juvenile drug use.
Penn State: NCAA will get information it wants on Sandusky sex abuse scandal within days
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — As the NCAA considers whether Penn State should face penalties following the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal — including a possible shutdown of its celebrated football program — the university says it will respond within days to the governing body's demand for information.
The head of the NCAA has declared that the so-called death penalty has not been ruled out for Penn State, but university president Rodney Erickson said Tuesday he doesn't want to "jump to conclusions" about possible sanctions.
The NCAA is investigating whether Penn State lost "institutional control" over its athletic program and violated ethics rules. Its probe had been on hold for eight months while former FBI Director Louis Freeh conducted an investigation on behalf of the school's board of trustees. Freeh's 267-page report, released last week, asserted that late football coach Joe Paterno and three top officials buried allegations against Sandusky, his retired defensive coordinator, more than a decade ago to protect the university's image.
Sandusky was convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. He awaits sentencing.
Erickson said now that Penn State has the results of its own investigation in hand, it can turn its attention to the NCAA.
Obama, first candidate to top $100M in a month, may be first incumbent to be outspent
WASHINGTON (AP) — Barack Obama was the first presidential candidate to raise more than $100 million in a month and in 2008 was the first to forgo public money for his campaign. Now, he faces the very real threat of being the first president to be outspent by a challenger.
Obama, who four years ago broke just about every fundraising record for a presidential hopeful, has now been forced to look his supporters in the eye and confess he might not keep pace with Republican Mitt Romney. It's a sobering realization for his campaign, which had imagined an unlimited budget for ads, offices and mail.
"I will be the first president in modern history to be outspent in his re-election campaign," Obama wrote to supporters recently.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Conservatives just two years ago feared Obama would raise and spend a billion dollars in the 2012 campaign. Now, there is a real possibility that Romney and his official partners at the Republican National Committee could overtake Obama in total spending.
How did Obama go from fundraising juggernaut to money chaser in just four years?
Legal group drafts law to make child custody rules work better for deployed military parents
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A national legal panel that works to standardize state laws wants to simplify child custody rules for military service members, whose frequent deployments can leave them without clear legal recourse when family disputes erupt.
The Uniform Law Commission, an influential group of some 350 attorneys appointed by all the states, is meeting in Nashville on Wednesday to give final approval for the Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, a set of uniform codes that state legislatures can adopt to standardize custody rights for parents who are deployed.
With deployments on the rise from the first Gulf War through the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, especially for National Guard and Reserve members, a majority of the states have implemented a patchwork of laws designed to protect them in child custody and visitation cases. But the rules aren't consistent across the country, says Eric Fish, legal counsel for the Uniformed Law Commission.
Some of the issues state courts have struggled with include how to determine jurisdiction when a military member is assigned to a base in another state, whether a step-parent or grandparent can have visitation rights when a parent is deployed, and whether a temporary custody arrangement should be made permanent when a parent returns from deployment.
"States are all across the board on those issues, so the impetus for the uniform act was to provide states with a well-conceived piece of legislation that takes the best practices from all the states that we have seen and give them some guidance," Fish said.
Jeremy Lin headed to Houston as Knicks pass on matching Rockets' offer to free agent guard
HOUSTON (AP) — The New York Knicks decided that Linsanity would have only a one-season run on Broadway.
Lin is headed back to Houston after the Knicks decided on Tuesday that they wouldn't match the Rockets' three-year, $25 million offer for the restricted free agent.
The 23-year-old point guard, who went undrafted out of Harvard, became an international phenomenon and the biggest story in sports during one dazzling month in the Big Apple. But the Knicks decided keeping the show in town was too costly.
"Extremely excited and honored to be a Houston Rocket again!!" Lin posted on his Twitter account.
"Much love and thankfulness to the Knicks and New York for your support the past year...easily the best year of my life."
Viennese up in arms over movement to charge for tap water at cafes and restaurants
VIENNA (AP) — In Vienna's legendary coffee-house tradition, a free glass of tap water with your coffee has been a cherished part of everyday life.
Now many Viennese are up in arms over a movement by restaurateurs to start charging for tap.
It amounts to cultural sacrilege in a city where delicious tap water — fed by Alpine springs — is seen as a birthright, and part of the whole experience of lounging in centuries-old cafes or savoring young wine at one of the Austrian capital's many leafy outdoor eateries.
For now, payment is voluntary, with 11 restaurants participating in a charity campaign meant to collect funds for clean water-starved Sierra Leone. But the establishments pocket half the water fee and prominent restaurateurs are starting to lobby for an obligatory tap water charge, unrelated to aid for Africa, just as the charity program has begun.
Many Viennese suspect that the Sierra Leone campaign and industry calls to charge for water cannot be pure coincidence. Some see a cynical ploy to take advantage of charitable feeling for extra profit.