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DECATUR, Ga. (AP) - A police chief says the suspect in a Georgia elementary school shooting fired from inside the school and officers returned fire.

 

   DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric L. Alexander said at a news conference that the gunman who had an assault rifle was able to get into Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur Tuesday by following behind someone who was authorized to be there.

 

   Alexander says the 19-year-old suspect is being questioned.

   The chief also says officers believed the suspect had explosives in the trunk of his car so they cut a hole in a fence to man sure students running from the building could get even farther away.

 

   DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Michael Thurmond praised faculty and authorities who got the young students to safety, saying it is a "blessed day, all our children are safe."

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) -- On a recent swing through the most conservative parts of his state, Sen. Marco Rubio told a packed banquet hall at the St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club that major policy issues were threatening the American dream: onerous taxes, burdensome regulations - and, above all, President Barack Obama's health care law.

But all Doc Washburn wanted to know about was immigration.

The local radio talk-show host asked the Republican senator why he had worked with Democrats on legislation that would give the estimated 11 million immigrants here illegally an eventual path to citizenship.

"We know you, and we've always loved you," Washburn said, "and yet you're pushing this and it's a real problem for us."

The exchange - and Rubio's reluctance to raise the issue after spending months advocating for comprehensive immigration reform - underscore why the potential presidential candidate has undertaken a sort of image-rehabilitation tour, promoting his conservative bona fides to crowds in Florida's most Republican bastions.

Once embraced by the tea party, Rubio's name can now elicit boos and catcalls at rallies. And since he began championing immigration changes, his standing has slipped in some polls.

The senator acknowledges the fallout. He told Republicans in Panama City, "Politically, it has not been a pleasant experience, to say the least." But his aides insist that his pivot to health care is driven by policy, not politics, that he's simply giving the U.S. House its own space to tackle immigration.

On a six-city, three-day swing through North Florida last week, Rubio emphasized his opposition to funding the health care law and barely mentioned immigration, the issue most closely associated with him. In a 35-minute speech to the Rotary Club of Jacksonville, he devoted just one minute to the reform legislation he helped shepherd through the Senate. In private, he discussed the issue in a series of meetings with conservative activists upset by his advocacy. He also held a series of public roundtables with business leaders, redirecting attention to his campaign to cut off funding for Obama's health care law.

As he told Washburn and the yacht club crowd: "If we're not willing to draw a line in the sand on Obamacare, then what issue are we willing to draw a line in the sand on?"

The tour came as two of Rubio's fellow senators - and potential presidential rivals - appear to be building strength with conservatives. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky also are pushing to defund the health care law, promoting their efforts among activists in states that will help decide the Republican nomination in 2016.

Political and budget analysts say the push to neuter "Obamacare" has little chance of success: Leading congressional Republicans have openly rejected the strategy, fearing a repeat of 1995, when the GOP forced a government shutdown over spending cuts and resuscitated President Bill Clinton's political career. Moreover, most of the health care law's funding is deemed mandatory, falling outside Congress' annual spending legislation.

Nevertheless, three years after its passage, the health care law remains a potent political issue. Polls show a majority of Americans - and most Republicans - oppose the law.

That helps explain why Rubio drew big applause for his pledge to reject any budget that funds "Obamacare" as he traveled across the Florida Panhandle, a stretch of plantations, farms and beach towns dotted with anti-abortion billboards and homemade anti-Obama signs.

Republican opposition to the health care law was visceral.

"Nobody knows what's in it," said Gerry Maloney, a retired U.S. Air Force general in Jacksonville. "It's just awful."

Some who were angry with Rubio over immigration said they were heartened by his campaign against the health care law.

"He may win us back with that," said Glen Leirer, a retired computer salesman in Panama City, "because that's probably the worst thing."

Indeed, Rubio has turned the issue into a conservative purity test. Before leaving Washington for the August recess, he chastised his fellow Republicans on the Senate floor. "Don't come here and say, `I'm against Obamacare' if you're willing to vote for a budget that funds it," he said. "If you pay for it, you own it."

Rubio says his renewed drive against the health care law has been driven partly by the administration's decisions to delay some key provisions, including a requirement for larger employers to offer health insurance to full-time employees. Those moves, he said, amount to an "admission this law is not ready for prime time."

He also cites the concerns of labor unions, which have asked Congress to change a provision that they say gives employers an incentive to cut workers' hours in order to avoid a health coverage requirement.

Freddie Wehbe, who employs 200 workers at Domino's Pizza franchises in Gainesville, was among several local business owners who told Rubio that they're waiting to hire workers or delaying expansion because of uncertainty about the law's impact on their health insurance costs.

At each stop, Rubio found fervor generally reserved for election years. But, except for a brief mention in Jacksonville, he addressed immigration only when asked about it.

During an interview on a Tallahassee radio show, Rubio tried a new approach. He said that if Congress doesn't pass a reform bill, Obama may be "tempted" to act on his own to legalize the millions of immigrants already here illegally.

"A year from now we could find ourselves with all 11 million people here legally under an executive order from the president, but no E-Verify, no more border security, no more border agents - none of the other reforms that we desperately need," Rubio said, referring to an electronic system for employers to check their workers' legal status.

The show's host thanked Rubio for his response. But he said the listeners emailing him were not impressed.

---

Follow Michael J. Mishak on Twitter: HTTPS://TWITTER.COM/MJMISHAK

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- For the Obama administration, there's a new wrinkle that could further complicate ties with post-coup Egypt: the possible release of the country's jailed former leader, Hosni Mubarak.

For nearly three decades, the U.S. propped up Mubarak and the Egyptian military with financial and military support. In exchange, Egypt helped protect U.S. interests in the region, including a peace treaty with Israel.

But that long and tangled relationship is now casting a shadow over the Obama administration as it grapples for a coherent Egypt policy following the ouster of Mubarak's democratically elected successor, Mohammed Morsi. The U.S. has refused to call Morsi's ouster a coup - a step that would require President Barack Obama to suspend $1.3 billion in annual military aid.

The U.S. still has not sent $585 million of that aid, and the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that delay was not an indication that a policy decision about cutting off aid had been made.

Amid the tumult of Morsi's ouster, Egyptian judicial officials announced Monday that Mubarak could be released from jail later this week. The White House refused to take a position on the status of its former partner, saying it would be inappropriate to comment on a legal matter.

"President Mubarak is part of an ongoing Egyptian legal process right now," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "And because that is a process that is internal to Egypt, it's not something that I'm in a position to comment on from here."

The U.S. has frequently taken positions on legal matters in other countries, including the jailing of Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the sentencing in Russia of the band Pussy Riot and the arrest of American aid workers in Egypt last year.

Mubarak's release likely would deepen the anger among Morsi's supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist political movement that was illegal under Mubarak.

Morsi, who was removed from power by the military last month, is also in custody. He is being held at an undisclosed location and is facing allegations that he conspired with the Palestinian militant Hamas group to escape from prison in 2011. On Monday, prosecutors also ordered his detention for 15 days in connection with allegations that he conspired to kill and torture protesters during mass demonstrations by the opposition outside his presidential palace in December 2012.

The White House has called for Morsi's release. Earnest on Monday said the detention was "politically motivated" and "not in line with the human rights standards that we expect other governments to uphold."

It's possible that Egyptian officials could keep Mubarak in custody given that the chaos that could result from his release would pose huge risks for the military-backed government. The 85-year-old has been in detention since April 2011 and was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for his failure to stop the killing of some 900 protesters during the revolution that forced him from office.

Mubarak's sentence was overturned on appeal and he is now being retried. Two judicial officials, however, said there no longer will be any grounds to hold the former president if a court accepts a petition by his lawyer requesting his release in a corruption case later this week.

Mubarak's ouster cleared the way for Egypt's first democratic election. Voters backed Morsi, but just one year into his term Egyptians took to the streets to protest, alleging that he gave the Muslim Brotherhood undue influence and failed to live up to his economic promises.

Morsi's ouster has put the Obama administration in the awkward diplomatic position of choosing between U.S. national security interests and its democratic values, particularly given the military's deadly crackdown against Morsi supporters.

The administration seems unlikely to move toward a blanket suspension of its annual military aid. Instead, it appears to be opting for a more piecemeal approach, cutting off the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets and canceling joint U.S-Egyptian military exercises planned for next month.

The administration is also considering suspending about $250 million in annual U.S. economic aid for Egypt, officials said. Congressional notification by the administration could arrive in the next week, said the officials, who weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

Congressional lawmakers are split over whether to cut off aid. Democrats were generally supportive of the president's approach, though Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, joined a growing number of Republicans calling for the elimination of military aid.

Just over half of Americans say it is better for the United States to cut off military aid to Egypt in order to put pressure on the government, according to a new Pew Research Center poll. That's nearly double the percentage who prefer the U.S. continue sending military aid to Egypt in order to maintain influence there. ---

Follow Julie Pace on Twitter at HTTP://TWITTER.COM/JPACEDC © 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
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