Egyptians brace for Sunday’s protest
CAIRO — As the streets once again fill with protesters eager to oust the president and Islamists determined to keep him in power, Egyptians are preparing for the worst: days or weeks of urban chaos that could turn their neighborhoods into battlegrounds.
Households already beset by power cuts, fuel shortages and rising prices are stocking up on goods in case the demonstrations drag on. Businesses near protest sites are closing until crowds subside. Fences, barricades and walls are going up near homes and key buildings. And local communities are organizing citizen patrols in case security breaks down.
For yet another time since President Mohammed Morsi took office last year, his palace in Cairo’s upscale Heliopolis neighborhood is set to become the focus for popular frustration with his rule. Some protests outside the capital have already turned deadly, and weapons — including firearms — have been circulating more openly than in the past.
“We’re worried like all Egyptians that a huge crowd will come, and it will get bloody,” said Magdy Ezz, owner of a menswear shop across from the walled complex, a blend of Middle Eastern and neoclassical architecture. Besides ordinary roll-down storm shutters, storefronts on the street are sealed off with steel panels.
“We just hope it will be peaceful. But it could be a second revolution,” he said.
Some say Snowden manhunt now a sideshow
Whisked out of a luxury Hong Kong hotel, vanishing into the mysterious wing of a Moscow airport, Edward Snowden’s continent-jumping, hide-and-seek game seems like the stuff of a pulp thriller — a desperate man’s drama played out before a worldwide audience trying to decide if he’s a hero or a villain.
But the search for the former National Security Agency contractor who spilled government secrets has become something of a distracting sideshow, some say, overshadowing at least for now the important debate over the government’s power to seize the phone and Internet records of millions of Americans to help wage the war on terrorism.
“You have to be humble on Day 1 to say, ‘This isn’t about me. This is about the information.’... I don’t think he really anticipated the importance of making sure the focus initially was off him,” says Mike Paul, president of MGP & Associates PR, a crisis management firm in New York. “Not only has he weakened his case, some would go as far as to say he’s gone from hero to zero.”
Snowden, he says, can get back on track by “utilizing whatever information he has like big bombs in a campaign,” so the focus returns to the question of spying and not his life on the run.
— The Associated Press
Snowden’s disclosures about U.S. surveillance to Britain’s Guardian newspaper and The Washington Post have ignited a major controversy in Washington that shows no signs of fading. A petition asking President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden — dubbing him a “national hero” — has collected more than 123,000 signatures. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., meanwhile, has called Snowden’s disclosure of top-secret information “an act of treason.” And Republican House Speaker John Boehner is among those who’ve called Snowden a “traitor.”
AP Interview: Susan Rice says Snowden leaks haven’t weakened Obama’s presidency
UNITED NATIONS — U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice dismissed claims that Edward Snowden’s highly classified leaks have weakened the Obama presidency and damaged U.S. foreign policy, insisting that the United States will remain “the most influential, powerful and important country in the world.”
Rice’s remarks were her only public ones on Snowden and came in an interview with The Associated Press as she prepared to leave the U.N. post and start her new job Monday as President Barack Obama’s national security adviser.
She said it’s too soon to judge whether there will be any long-term serious repercussions from the intelligence leaks by the former National Security Agency contractor who fled to Hong Kong and then Russia after seizing documents disclosing secret U.S. surveillance programs in the U.S. and overseas, which he has shared with The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers.
“I don’t think the diplomatic consequences, at least as they are foreseeable now, are that significant,” she said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have called Snowden’s leaks a serious breach that damaged national security. Hagel said Thursday an assessment of the damage is being done now.
Appeals court OKS same-sex marriages to resume in Calif., prompting Friday flurry of weddings
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Same-sex marriages that were outlawed in California 4 1/2 years ago resumed in a rush after a federal appeals court took the “unusual, but not unprecedented,” step of freeing couples to obtain marriage licenses, before the U.S. Supreme Court had issued its final judgment in a challenge of the state’s voter-approved gay marriage ban.
Within hours of the appeals court’s action Friday, the four plaintiffs who in 2009 sued to overturn the ban had exchanged vows during hastily arranged ceremonies that drew crowds of well-wishers as the news spread that the weddings were back on.
“I was at work,” lead plaintiff Kristen Perry said, adding that she rushed home to Berkeley to change into a gray suit so she could marry her now-wife Sandra Stier at San Francisco City Hall.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris declared Perry and Stier “spouses for life” as hundreds of supporters looked on and cheered from the balconies ringing the couple’s perch under City Hall’s rotunda. The other couple in the Supreme Court case, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, was married at Los Angeles City Hall 90 minutes later wearing matching white rose boutonnières and with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa presiding.
“Your bravery in the face of bigotry has made history,” said Villaraigosa, who was pulled from his last day in office tour of the city to officiate the impromptu wedding.
Supreme Court rulings energize both sides as many states face battles over same-sex marriage
Across the country, this week’s landmark Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage have energized activists and politicians on both sides of the debate. Efforts to impose bans — and to repeal them — have taken on new intensity, as have lawsuits by gays demanding the right to marry.
The high court, in two 5-4 decisions Wednesday, opened the way for California to become the 13th state to legalize gay marriage, and it directed the federal government to recognize legally married same-sex couples. A federal appeals court on Friday lifted its freeze on same-sex marriages in California, saying the state is required to issue licenses to gay couples starting immediately.
But the rulings, while hailed by gay-rights activists, did not declare a nationwide right for gays to marry. Instead, they set the stage for state-by-state battles over one of America’s most contentious social issues. Already, some of those battles are heating up.
In Pennsylvania, the only Northeast state that doesn’t legally recognize same-sex couples, gay state Rep. Brian Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat, says he will introduce a bill to allow same-sex marriages. The bill may flounder in the GOP-led Legislature, but the issue is likely to be volatile in next year’s gubernatorial race, pitting GOP Gov. Tom Corbett, an opponent of gay marriage, against any of three Democrats who favor it.
In Arizona, gay-rights supporters have begun circulating petitions aimed at repealing the state’s 2008 ban on same-sex marriage by way of a ballot measure next year. With California’s ban quashed, Arizona is now among 29 states with constitutional amendments that limit marriage to one-man, one-woman unions.
First week of testimony in Trayvon Martin case hinges on phone call, neighbor witnesses
SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — The first week of George Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial wrapped up with testimony from two neighbors and a police officer that seemed to bolster the defense’s argument that he was pinned on his back by Trayvon Martin before shooting the teen.
Neighbor Jonathan Good testified Friday that it appeared the unarmed teen was straddling the neighborhood watch volunteer, while another neighbor, Jonathan Manalo, said Zimmerman seemed credible when he said just after the fight that he shot Martin in self-defense. Officer Tim Smith testified that Zimmerman’s back side was covered in grass and wetter than his front side.
All three were called as witnesses for prosecutors who are trying to convict him of second-degree murder.
Good, who had perhaps the best view of any witness, said he did not see anyone’s head being slammed into the concrete sidewalk, as Zimmerman claims Martin did to him. Good initially testified that it appeared “there were strikes being thrown, punches being thrown,” but during detailed questioning he said he saw only “downward” arm movements being made.
Zimmerman has claimed that he fatally shot 17-year-old Martin in February 2012 in self-defense as the Miami-area teen was banging his head into the concrete sidewalk behind the townhomes in a gated community.
Heat wave strikes western US as temps approach 120 in Phoenix, Las Vegas
DEATH VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Dan Kail was vacationing in Las Vegas when he heard that the temperature at Death Valley could approach 130 degrees this weekend. He didn’t hesitate to make a trip to the desert location that is typically the hottest place on the planet.
“Coming to Death Valley in the summertime has always been on the top of my bucket list,” the 67-year-old Pittsburgh man said. “When I found out it might set a record I rented a car and drove straight over. If it goes above 130 I will have something to brag about.”
The forecast called for Death Valley to reach 128 degrees Saturday as part of a heat wave that has caused large parts of the western U.S. to suffer. Death Valley’s record high of 134 degrees, set a century ago, stands as the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth.
“The wind out here is like being in front of a blast furnace,” Kail said.
As temperatures soared in Las Vegas Friday, 200 people were treated for heat problems at an outdoor concert, Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa said.
AP PHOTOS: Images of the stifling heat wave in the western US
A heat wave across the western U.S. was so punishing that rangers took up positions at trailheads at Lake Mead in Nevada to persuade people not to hike. Zookeepers in Phoenix hosed down the elephants and fed tigers frozen fish snacks. Dogs were at risk of burning their paws on scorched pavement, and airlines kept close watch on the heat for fear that it could cause flights to be delayed.
Here are pictures of the heat wave:
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