Sunday, November 18, 2012

Published:

Obama says he is extending 'hand of friendship' to Myanmar with historic personal visit

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- Launching a landmark visit to long shunned Myanmar, President Barack Obama said he comes to "extend the hand of friendship" to a nation moving from persecution to peace. But the praise and personal attention come with an admonition from Obama: The work of ensuring and protecting freedoms has just begun.

Obama touched down Monday morning, becoming the first U.S. president to visit this Asian nation, which is also known as Burma. He will meet with the nation's prime minister and democracy advocates, and close with a speech at the University of Yangon, where he will praise the country's progress toward democracy but urge further reforms.

"Instead of being repressed, the right of people to assemble together must now be fully respected," the president said in speech excerpts released by the White House. "Instead of being stifled, the veil of media censorship must continue to be lifted. As you take these steps, you can draw on your progress."

Obama's visit was to last just six hours, but it carries significant symbolism, reflecting a remarkable turnaround in the countries' relationship.

Hundreds of children and young people dressed in white shirts and green sarongs, many of them wearing traditional cheek makeup smears and holding small U.S. flags, lined both sides of the road for more than half a mile heading out of the airport.

___

Israeli strike kills 11 in Gaza, including children; pressure grows to halt fighting

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- An Israeli missile ripped through a two-story home in a residential area of Gaza City on Sunday, killing at least 11 civilians, including four young children and an 81-year-old woman, in the single deadliest attack of Israel's offensive against Islamic militants.

A similar scene unfolded elsewhere in the city early Monday, when an airstrike leveled two houses belonging to a single family, killing two children and two adults and injuring 42 people, including children, said Gaza heath official Ashraf al-Kidra. Rescue workers were frantically searching for 12 to 15 members of the Azzam family under the rubble.

While the airstrikes relentlessly targeted militant rocket operations, Israeli gunboats unleashed a steady tattoo of heavy machine gun fire and shells at militant facilities on Gaza's coastal road.

The bloodshed was likely to raise pressure on Israel to end the fighting, even as it pledged to intensify the offensive by striking the homes of wanted militants. High numbers of civilian casualties in an offensive four years ago led to fierce criticism and condemnation of Israel.

In all, 81 Palestinians, half of them 37 civilians, have been killed in the five-day onslaught and 720 have been wounded. Three Israeli civilians have died from Palestinian rocket fire and dozens have been wounded..

___

10 Things to Know for Monday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and stories that will be talked about Monday:

1. NO LETUP IN VIOLENCE BETWEEN ISRAEL AND HAMAS

Palestinian militants continued to barrage Israel with rockets, and Israel announced it was widening its offensive to target the military commanders of the ruling Islamist group.

___

US, Britain warn about risks of Israel expanding aerial assaults of Gaza into a ground war

BANGKOK (AP) -- The U.S. and Britain on Sunday warned about the risks of Israel expanding its air assault on the Gaza Strip into a ground war, while vigorously defending the Jewish state's right to protect itself against rocket attacks.

The remarks by President Barack Obama and Britain Foreign Secretary William Hague were part of a diplomatic balancing act by the West as it desperately seeks an end to the escalating violence without alienating its closest ally in the region.

"Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory," President Barack Obama said at a news conference in Bangkok at the start of a three-nation visit to Asia.

"If that can be accomplished without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza, that's preferable," Obama said. "It's not just preferable for the people of Gaza. It's also preferable for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they're much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded."

The president spoke shortly before an Israeli airstrike leveled a home in a residential neighborhood. Palestinian medical officials said at least 11 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed. The attack was the single deadliest incident of the 5-day-old Israeli operation.

___

Justin Bieber wins 3 AMAs, including artist of the year

America proved its Bieber Fever was strong: The teen singer dominated the American Music Awards on Sunday night.

Bieber's wins included the show's top award, artist of the year.

The singer's mom joined him onstage as he collected the top award.

He looked to his mom: "I wanted to thank you for always believing in me."

He said it's "hard growing up with everyone watching me" and asked that people continue to believe in him.

___

AP PHOTOS: Bieber, Minaj, Swift win at AMAs

Justin Beiber, Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift won honors at Sunday night's American Music Awards.

Beiber won favorite pop/rock male artist in the first award handed out and gave a shout-out to those who didn't think he would last on the music scene.

Taylor Swift won her fifth consecutive award for favorite country female artist.

Nicki Minaj was also a consecutive winner, picking up her second trophy for favorite rap/hip-hop album for "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded."

Usher kicked off the three-hour show with green laser lights beaming onstage as he performed a medley of songs, including "Numb," ''Climax" and "Can't Stop, Won't Stop."

___

Congress wants to know who created Benghazi 'talking points,' why terrorism link was omitted

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lawmakers said Sunday they want to know who had a hand in creating the Obama administration's now-discredited "talking points" about the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, and why a final draft omitted the CIA's early conclusion that terrorists were involved.

The answers could explain why President Barack Obama and top aides, including U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, described the attack for days afterward as a protest against an anti-Islam video that spontaneously turned violent and why they played down any potential link to al-Qaida, despite evidence to the contrary.

Administration officials have defended the portrayal of the attack as relying on the best information available at the time that didn't compromise classified intelligence. Democrats say CIA and other intelligence officials signed off on the final talking points.

Republicans have alleged a Watergate-like cover up, accusing White House aides of hiding the terrorism link in the run-up to the Nov. 6 presidential election so voters wouldn't question Obama's claim that al-Qaida's power had diminished.

"I know the narrative was wrong and the intelligence was right. ... We're going to get to the bottom of how that happened," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

___

FBI's pursuit of cyberstalking case that ended CIA chief's career set off by security concerns

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The way the FBI responded to Jill Kelley's complaint about receiving harassing emails, which ultimately unraveled or scarred the careers of ex-CIA Director David Petraeus and Marine Gen. John Allen, is the exception, not the rule.

The FBI commonly declines to pursue cyberstalking cases without compelling evidence of serious or imminent harm to an individual, victims of online harassment, advocacy groups and computer crime experts told The Associated Press.

But in the sensational episode that uncovered the spy chief's adulterous affair, the FBI's cyberdivision devoted months of tedious investigative work to uncover who had sent insulting and anonymous messages about Kelley, the Florida socialite who was friendly with Petraeus and Allen -- and friends with a veteran FBI counterterrorism agent in Tampa.

The bureau probably would have ignored Kelley's complaint had it not been for information in the emails that indicated the sender was aware of the travel schedules of Petraeus and Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Instead, the FBI considered this from the earliest stages to be an exceptional case, and one so sensitive that FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General Eric Holder were kept notified of its progress.

How the FBI's investigation unfolded -- especially its decision not to alert the White House, the director of national intelligence or Congress about its discovery of Petraeus's sexual affair until Election Day -- is under scrutiny, especially because there is no indication so far that any criminal charges will be filed.

___

Elite schools' popular online courses have scaled up delivery, but can they scale up credit?

In 15 years of teaching, University of Pennsylvania classicist Peter Struck has guided perhaps a few hundred students annually in his classes on Greek and Roman mythology through the works of Homer, Sophocles, Aeschylus and others -- "the oldest strands of our cultural DNA."

But if you gathered all of those tuition-paying, in-person students together, the group would pale in size compared with the 54,000 from around the world who, this fall alone, are taking his class online for free -- a "Massive Open Online Course," or MOOC, offered through a company called Coursera.

Reaching that broader audience of eager learners -- seeing students in Brazil and Thailand wrestle online with texts dating back millennia -- is thrilling. But he's not prepared to say they're getting the same educational experience.

"Where you have a back-and-forth, interrogating each other ideas, finding shades of gray in each other's ideas, I don't know how much of that you can do in a MOOC," he said. "I can measure some things students are getting out of this course, but it's nowhere near what I can do even when I teach 300 here at Penn."

A year ago, hardly anybody knew the term MOOC. But the Internet-based courses offered by elite universities through Coursera, by a consortium led by Harvard and MIT called edX, and by others, are proving wildly popular, with some classes attracting hundreds of thousands of students. In a field known for glacial change, MOOCs have landed like a meteorite in higher education, and universities are racing for a piece of the action.

___

Threes please! Manning 3 touchdowns and Miller 3 sacks in Broncos 30-23 win over Chargers

DENVER (AP) -- Passing by Peyton. Dancing by Von.

On the day Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes and drew even with John Elway in the career win column, it was Broncos linebacker Von Miller who stole the show -- not only with the three sacks and two forced fumbles that rattled Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, but with the ever-evolving sack dance he uses to celebrate.

"You've got to show some excitement when you make a play," Miller said after spearheading a 30-23 victory Sunday that gave Denver a three-game lead over San Diego in the AFC West. "It's hard enough as it is out there."

But the Broncos (7-3) are making this look easy.

With their fifth straight win, they now have a three-game lead plus the tiebreaker over the rapidly fading Chargers (4-6), who lost their fifth of six and are now playing as much for jobs -- namely coach Norv Turner's -- as a playoff spot.