Nation & World Briefs 01-08-13 Obama administrationbegins ramping up gunviolence discussions

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WASHINGTON -- Facing an end-of-the-month deadline, the Obama administration is calling gun owner groups, victims' organizations and representatives from the video-game industry to the White House this week for discussions on potential policy proposals for curbing gun violence.

President Barack Obama has ordered an administration-wide task force to send him proposals by the end of January. The group, led by Vice President Joe Biden, was formed in response to last month's horrific massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

Biden will meet Wednesday with gun violence victims' groups and gun safety organizations, a White House official said. On Thursday, he will hold talks with gun ownership groups, as well as advocates for sportsmen. The vice president also plans to meet this week with representatives from the entertainment and video-game industries. The official was not authorized to discuss the meetings before they were publicly announced and thus spoke on condition of anonymity.

Justice retiring amid investigation: Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway is quitting in two weeks, her lawyers said Monday, moments after a judicial watchdog sought her suspension for "blatant and brazen" violations of professional conduct while she tried to get rid of a suburban Detroit home in a short sale. Hathaway's attorneys deny any misconduct. They blasted the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission, saying a formal complaint was unnecessary because the agency's director was told that Hathaway had filed papers on Dec. 20 to retire on Jan. 21. "The only reason they could possibly do this was to pander to the press," Brian Einhorn told Associated Press. "Were they just trying to embarrass her?"

Suspect in attack freed: The only suspect in custody over the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi has been conditionally released by Tunisian authorities due to lack of evidence, his lawyer said today. The release of Ali Harzi, a Tunisian, represents a blow to the investigation of the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. The investigation in Libya itself has been stalled due to the weak power of the central government in the face of the powerful militias, some of whom may have been involved in the attack. Harzi's lawyer Anwar Oued-Ali said his client was freed Monday night but has to remain in the greater Tunis area in case the court needs him.

Mold-free bread?: Attention, bread shoppers: A Texas company could have the answer to some consumers' unwelcome discovery that just-purchased loaves contain mold. MicroZap Inc. claims its technology allows bread to stay mold-free for 60 days. The bread is bombarded with microwaves for about 10 seconds, which kills the mold spores, said chief executive officer Don Stull said. The process could eliminate bakers' need for preservatives and ingredients used to mask preservatives' flavor, as well as reduce food waste and increase bread's shelf life, he said.

Government warns consumers: The government is warning consumers to inspect Fisher-Price Newborn Rock 'N Play Sleepers due to risk of exposure to mold for infants who use them. The Consumer Product Safety Commission said today that its warning applies to 800,000 infant recliner seats, called sleepers, that were sold at stores nationwide and online since September 2009, with prices ranging between $50 and $85. The seats, designed for babies up to 25 pounds, feature a soft plastic seat held in a tubular metal rocking frame. The product has a removable fabric cover. For information: Call Fisher-Price at 800-432-5437 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. EST, or visit the company's website at http://www.service.mattel.com.

Investigating mysterious death: Urooj Khan had returned to Chicago from the hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia inspired to lead a better life and had sworn off buying lottery tickets -- except just this once. To his astonishment, the scratch-off ticket was a $1 million winner. But just as he was about to collect his money, Khan died suddenly. There were no signs of trauma and nothing suspicious, and the Cook County Medical Examiner's office said he died July 20 of natural causes. Now, authorities have determined that Khan, 46, ingested a lethal dose of cyanide. The finding, spurred by a relative's pleas for an expanded screening, has triggered a homicide investigation, the Chicago Police Department said Monday.

Wildfires rage across Australia: Firefighters battled scores of wildfires raging across southeast Australia day as authorities evacuated national parks and warned that blistering temperatures and high winds had led to "catastrophic" conditions in some areas. No deaths had been reported, although officials in Tasmania were still trying to find around 100 residents who have been missing since a fire tore through the small town of Dunalley, east of the state capital of Hobart, last week, destroying around 90 homes.

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