GOP hits Obama for telling Russia his reelection will allow more missile defense flexibility
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- President Barack Obama said Tuesday he is not trying to "hide the ball" in negotiations with Russia over U.S. plans for a missile defense shield in Europe, expanding upon comments to Russia's leader that were picked up by an open microphone and quickly drew the ire of Republicans.
Obama said he wants to spend the rest of this year working through technical issues with the Russians and said it was not surprising that a deal couldn't be completed quickly. The shield is opposed by Russia in its current form and new talks that might lead to U.S. concessions are opposed by Republican in Congress.
Republicans pounced on Obama's remarks to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, heard on an open microphone, that he would have more flexibility on the issue after the November presidential election. The conversation was picked up by a microphone without either leader apparently knowing.
"This is my last election," Obama was heard telling Medvedev, Russia's outgoing president. "After my election, I have more flexibility."
Medvedev replied in English, according to ABC News: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir," an apparent reference to incoming President Vladmir Putin.
No delay: Justices signal readiness to tackle keep-or-kill question for health care overhaul
WASHINGTON (AP) -- As demonstrations swirled outside, Supreme Court justices signaled on Monday they are ready to confront without delay the keep-or-kill questions at the heart of challenges to President Barack Obama's historic health care overhaul. Virtually every American will be affected by the outcome, due this summer in the heat of the election campaign.
On the first of three days of arguments -- the longest in decades -- none of the justices appeared to embrace the contention that it was too soon for a decision.
Outside the packed courtroom, marching and singing demonstrators on both sides -- including doctors in white coats, a Republican presidential candidate and even a brass quartet -- voiced their eagerness for the court to either uphold or throw out the largest expansion in the nation's social safety net since Medicare was enacted in 1965.
Tuesday's arguments will focus on the heart of the case, the provision that aims to extend medical insurance to 30 million more Americans by requiring everyone to carry insurance or pay a penalty.
A decision is expected by late June as Obama fights for re-election. All of his Republican challengers oppose the law and promise its repeal if the high court hasn't struck it down in the meantime.
Marijuana, beating claims put slain Florida teen's supporters on the defensive
SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- The family and supporters of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin found themselves on the defensive Monday following revelations he had been suspended for marijuana before he was shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Police also confirmed a report that the watchman claimed Martin was the aggressor, punching him in the nose and smacking his head on a sidewalk.
Martin, 17, was suspended by Miami-Dade County schools because traces of marijuana were found in a plastic baggie in his book bag, family spokesman Ryan Julison said. Martin was serving the suspension when he was shot Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, who was patrolling the neighborhood that Martin was visiting with his father.
Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, and family attorneys blamed police for leaking the information about the marijuana and Zimmerman's claim about the attack to the news media in an effort to demonize the teenager.
"They killed my son and now they're trying to kill his reputation," Fulton told reporters.
The Sanford Police Department insisted there was no authorized release of the new information but acknowledged there may have been a leak. City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. said it would be investigated and the person responsible could be fired.
Afghan security forces kill 3 NATO troops, reflecting a spike in tensions
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghan security forces shot and killed three international troops Monday, one of them an American, in two attacks. They were the latest in a rising number of attacks in which Afghan forces have turned their weapons on their foreign partners.
The killings reflect a spike in tensions between Afghan and international forces that follow an American soldier's alleged massacre of Afghan civilians, the burning of Muslim holy books at a U.S. base, and uncertainty about Afghanistan's fate as foreign troops prepare to pull out.
They also come at a time when international troops have stepped up training and mentoring of Afghan soldiers, police and government workers so that Afghans can take the lead and the foreign forces can go home. The success of that partnership is key to the U.S.-led coalition's strategy to withdraw most foreign combat forces by the end of 2014.
U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told reporters at the Pentagon that these types of attacks are characteristic of any warfare involving insurgents.
"We experienced these in Iraq. We experienced them in Vietnam," Allen said. "On any occasion where you're dealing with an insurgency and where you're also growing an indigenous force ... the enemy's going to do all that they can to disrupt both the counterinsurgency operations" and the developing nation's security forces.
US, China, SKorea warn nations to keep nuclear material from falling into terrorists' hands
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- The leaders of South Korea, the United States and China issued stark warnings Tuesday about the threat of nuclear terrorism during the final day of a nuclear summit that has so far been upstaged by North Korea's long-range rocket launch plans.
Nearly 60 leaders have gathered for the two-day conference meant to find ways to keep terrorists from detonating an atomic weapon in a major city. The leaders were to release a communique Tuesday about their efforts to lock down the world's supply of nuclear material by 2014.
Much of the drama, however, has centered on North Korea's stated plans to launch a satellite on a long-range rocket around the April 15 celebration of the birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung. Washington and Seoul view the launch as cover for nuclear missile development; North Korea says the satellite is part of a peaceful space program and will help in forecasting the weather.
President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Monday pressured China, Pyongyang's main ally and economic supporter, to use its leverage to persuade the North to back away from the launch.
Although North Korea wasn't mentioned in opening summit comments Tuesday by China, the U.S. and South Korea, the launch was still a major point of discussion in leaders' meetings on the sidelines. Lee and Italian Premier Mario Monti met Tuesday and urged North Korea to cancel its launch plans, Lee's office said.
Pope Benedict XVI touches down in Cuba 14 years after John Paul II's historic visit
SANTIAGO, Cuba (AP) -- Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Cuba on Monday in the footsteps of his more famous predecessor, gently pressing the island's longtime communist leaders to push through "legitimate" reforms their people desire, while also criticizing the excesses of capitalism.
In contrast to the raucous welcome Benedict received in Mexico, his arrival in Cuba's second city was relatively subdued: President Raul Castro greeted him at the airport with a 21-cannon salute and a goose-stepping military honor guard, but few ordinary Cubans lined Benedict's motorcade route into town and the pope barely waved from his glassed-in popemobile.
Santiago's main plaza, however, came alive when Benedict arrived for his evening Mass, his main public event here before heading Tuesday to Havana. While the plaza, which has a capacity of about 200,000, was not fully packed there was a festive atmosphere, with Cubans dancing to the rhythms of a samba band awaiting Benedict's arrival and waving small Cuban and Vatican flags.
"It is a message of love, this visit," said Jorgelina Guevara, a 59-year-old homemaker as she waited for the Mass to begin. "The Cuban people need it."
The trip comes 14 years after John Paul's historic tour, when the Polish pope who helped bring down communism in his homeland admonished Fidel Castro to free prisoners of conscience, end abortion and let the Roman Catholic Church take its place in society.
Officials: US and Pakistan spy chiefs bargain over future of CIA drone program
WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a bid to save the CIA's drone campaign against al-Qaida in Pakistan, US officials offered key concessions to Pakistan's spy chief that included advance notice and limits on the types of targets. But the offers were flatly rejected, leaving US-Pakistani relations strained as President Barack Obama prepares to meet Tuesday with Pakistan's prime minister.
CIA Director David Petraeus, who met with Pakistan's then-spy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha at a meeting in London in January, offered to give Pakistan advance notice of future CIA drone strikes against targets on its territory in a bid to keep Pakistan from blocking the strikes -- arguably one of the most potent U.S. tools against al-Qaida.
The CIA chief also offered to apply new limits on the types of targets hit, said a senior U.S. intelligence official briefed on the meetings. No longer would large groups of armed men rate near-automatic action, as they had in the past -- one of the so-called "signature" strikes, where CIA targeters deemed certain groups and behavior as clearly indicative of militant activity.
Pasha said then what Pakistani officials and its parliament have repeated in recent days: that Pakistan will no longer brook independent U.S. action on its territory by CIA drones, two Pakistani officials said. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive negotiations.
Pasha went further, saying Pakistan's intelligence service would no longer carry out joint raids with U.S. counterterrorist teams inside its country, as it had in the past. Instead, Pakistan would demand that the U.S. hand over the intelligence, so its forces could pursue targets on their own in urban areas, or send the Pakistani army or jets to attack the targets in the tribal areas, explained a senior Pakistani official.
Defense: Philadelphia monsignor 'won't run' from church sex abuse problem, tried to correct it
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A high-ranking monsignor who's on trial "won't run" from the Catholic Church's sex abuse crisis, his lawyer said Monday as the landmark child endangerment trial began.
Monsignor William Lynn supervised more than 800 priests as the secretary for clergy in Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004. He's the first U.S. church official charged over his handling of abuse complaints.
Prosecutors charge that he kept dangerous priests in parish work around children to protect the church's reputation and avoid scandal.
Defense lawyer Thomas Bergstrom said in opening statements: "There is documentary evidence that the sexual abuse of children happened in the Catholic Church. We're not going to run from that. He (Lynn), perhaps alone, is the one who tried to correct it."
Bergstrom said his client had prepared a list of 35 accused priests in 1994, based on his review of secret archives kept in a locked room at the archdiocese's headquarters. Lynn gave the list to Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and other superiors, but Bevilacqua had it shredded, Bergstrom said.
R&B singer Bobby Brown arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Officials in Southern California say Bobby Brown has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
California Highway Patrol Officer Mike Harris says Brown was arrested around 12:20 p.m. Monday in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles. He failed a field sobriety test and was booked on suspicion of DUI.
Harris says the R&B singer was pulled over after an officer saw him talking on his cellphone without a hands-free unit and noticed he appeared to be impaired.
Los Angeles police say Brown was released from jail on his own recognizance shortly before 2 p.m.
The 43-year-old is the ex-husband of Whitney Houston and a founding member of the group New Edition.
Danny Granger scores 25 points, Darren Collison adds 20 to lead Pacers in 105-90 win over Heat
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Danny Granger scored 25 points to help the Indiana Pacers beat the Miami Heat 105-90 on Monday night.
Darren Collison added 20 points, and Paul George had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers, who have won four of five and finally got the signature win they have sought since the All-Star break.
LeBron James had 24 points and nine rebounds, and Dwyane Wade had 24 points and six assists for Miami.
The Heat, coming off a 103-87 loss at Oklahoma City on Sunday night, lost by double digits in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Miami (35-13) lost for the fourth time in eight games overall and is running out of time to catch Chicago (40-10) for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The Heat had won the previous three meetings this season, but the Pacers played with confidence throughout. Indiana led by double digits for most of the fourth quarter, and Pacers fans stood and showed their appreciation during the final minute.