World Briefly for July 15

Published 6:38 pm Monday, July 14, 2008

Bush lifts executive ban on offshore drilling, urges Congress to back more exploration for oil

WASHINGTON (AP) — Putting pressure on congressional Democrats to back more exploration for oil, President Bush on Monday lifted an executive ban on offshore drilling that has stood since his father was president. But the move, by itself, will do nothing unless Congress acts as well.

There are two prohibitions on offshore drilling, one imposed by Congress and another by executive order signed by the first President Bush in 1990. The current president, trying to ease market tensions and boost supply, called last month for Congress to lift its prohibition before he did so himself.

“The only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress,” Bush said in a statement in the Rose Garden. “Now the ball is squarely in Congress’ court.”

Bush criticized Congress for failing to lift its own ban on offshore drilling.

“For years, my administration has been calling on Congress to expand domestic oil production,” Bush said. “Unfortunately, Democrats on Capitol Hill have rejected virtually every proposal. And now Americans are paying at the pump.”


Campaign calls magazine cover that shows Obama dressed as Muslim, wife as terrorist ‘tasteless’

WASHINGTON (AP) — Barack Obama’s campaign says a satirical New Yorker magazine cover showing the Democratic presidential candidate dressed as a Muslim and his wife as a terrorist is “tasteless and offensive.”

The illustration on the issue that hits newsstands Monday, titled “The Politics of Fear” and drawn by Barry Blitt, depicts Barack Obama wearing sandals, robe and a turban and his wife, Michelle, dressed in camouflage, combat boots and an assault rifle strapped over her shoulder — standing in the Oval Office.

The couple is doing a fist tap in front of a fireplace in which an American flag is burning. Over the mantel hangs a portrait of Osama bin Laden.

“The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama’s right-wing critics have tried to create,” said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton. “But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree.”

In a statement Monday, the magazine said the cover “combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are.”


3 plead to bomb charges in plot that brought air travel to liquid-restricted chaos

LONDON (AP) — In a case that changed the face of air travel, three men charged with a plot to kill trans-Atlantic airline passengers with bombs in soda bottles admitted Monday they intended to cause explosions.

But the men appealed to the jury to believe their story — that they wanted to stage an elaborate publicity stunt at one of London’s iconic sites to promote a film, rather than commit mass murder.

The men are charged with a plot to kill hundreds of passengers at the height of the summer vacation season. When police discovered the plot in August 2006, airports around the world immediately changed their security procedures.

As security guards examined every bag by hand, passengers dumped bottles of water, wine and perfume. Tents were erected in airport parking lots as passengers waited, sometimes for days, to board flights. Airports and airlines needed weeks to recover from the chaos.

Monday’s change of plea on some of the charges comes as the case winds to a close, infuriating prosecutors who say the men simply wanted to sway jurors before deliberations on the main charge against them: conspiring to kill thousands of airline passengers on flights over the Atlantic Ocean or U.S. cities.


FAA says near-collisions prompts review of takeoff, landing sequences on perpendicular runways

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration is studying whether to again change takeoff and landing procedures at John F. Kennedy International Airport after a second near-collision of aircraft in less than a week.

At a news conference Monday, acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell said a change ordered on Friday for the New York airport might not be permanent.

“Given that we had two in this short a time frame, we’re going to take a look at the procedure, we’re going to see if there are additional considerations we should add to the procedure, and in the meantime the airport will be using a different configuration,” Sturgell said.

The FAA directed a change in the way takeoffs and landings are sequenced on perpendicular runways after two passenger airliners — one taking off, one landing — came within a half-mile of each other. Six days earlier, a similar incident occurred.

Sturgell said a preliminary investigation found that both incidents were due to communication problems.


Dubai cracking down on nudity, other indecent behavior on beaches; 79 detained in 2 weeks

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Westerners were getting too racy on the beaches of this Persian Gulf tourist haven, and a police crackdown on topless sunbathing, nudity and other indecent behavior has resulted in 79 arrests in recent days.

Undercover officers are strolling the sand while others stand guard in new watchtowers to enforce the social mores of this Muslim city-state, which is a booming business center that is attracting growing hordes of foreign tourists.

Authorities said they began the decency campaign after police detained a British man and a woman who were allegedly having sex on one of Dubai’s sprawling beaches earlier this month.

Over the past two weeks, police have detained a total of 79 people whose behavior was “disturbing families enjoying the beach,” Zuhair Haroun, a spokesman for Dubai’s Criminal Investigation Department, said Monday.

First-time offenders may be issued a warning, but if caught twice, tourists could be referred to the public prosecutor for possible criminal charges, authorities said.


Missing Fort Bragg Army nurse found dead in NC; Marine husband charged with murder, arson

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The husband of a Fort Bragg Army nurse whose remains were found amid a brush fire was charged Monday with first-degree murder and a fellow Marine was charged with being an accomplice.

Marine Cpl. John Wimunc, 23, also was charged with first-degree arson and conspiracy to commit arson in the death of his wife, Army 2nd Lt. Holley Wimunc, a nurse from Dubuque, Iowa. Her body was found Sunday — three days after a fire was discovered in her Fayetteville apartment about 130 miles northwest of Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps base where the men are stationed.

Authorities also charged Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle Alden, 22, with first-degree arson, conspiracy to commit arson and accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. Both were arrested Sunday morning at Camp Lejeune.

The arrests were made after police interviewed Alden.

“We were able to corroborate a lot of the things he told us,” Fayetteville Detective Jeff Locklear. “We used that information, interviews with witnesses … to get the arrest warrant.”


Researchers say Tasmanian devils are breeding earlier because of an epidemic of cancer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The little devils just can’t wait. Faced with an epidemic of cancer that cuts their lives short, Tasmanian devils have begun breeding at younger ages, according to researchers at the University of Tasmania in Australia.

“We could be seeing evolution occurring before our eyes. Watch this space!” says zoologist Menna Jones of the university.

Tasmanian devils live on the island of Tasmania, south of Australia. They weigh 20 to 30 pounds and were named devils by early European settlers because the furry black marsupials produce a fierce screech and can be bad-tempered.

Since 1996 a contagious form of cancer called devil facial tumor disease has been infecting these animals and is invariably fatal, causing death between the ages of 2 and 3.

In the past devils would live five to six years, breeding at ages two, three and four, but with the new disease, even females who breed at two may not live long enough to rear their first litter.


Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman have ended their relationship, their publicists say

NEW YORK (AP) — Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman have broken up, their publicists said Monday.

“Jimmy and Sarah have no further comment,” Kimmel’s spokesman Lewis Kay told The Associated Press, confirming the split that was first reported on Vanity Fair magazine’s Web site.

Silverman’s publicist, Amy Zvi, confirmed the breakup in an e-mail message to the AP. Zvi didn’t immediately respond when asked for further details.

The pair dated for five years, and were one of Hollywood’s funniest — and seemingly solid — couples.

Earlier this year, they took the Internet by storm with a mega-popular video duel. Silverman debuted a clip of her and Matt Damon singing about their fake love affair on Kimmel’s ABC late-night show “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and Kimmel later responded with a star-studded video declaring a romance with Damon’s best friend, Ben Affleck.

Silverman, 37, has made frequent appearances on the 39-year-old Kimmel’s talk show. The comedian has starred in a feature-film length version of her one-woman show, “Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic,” and fronted her own Comedy Central series, “The Sarah Silverman Program.”


Brett Favre: I don’t feel welcome in Green Bay, so Packers should let me play elsewhere

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Brett Favre finally is speaking for himself: He wants to play but doesn’t feel welcome in Green Bay, so he’s asking to be released.

The quarterback’s first substantial comments on his latest retirement decision reversal come in an interview with Fox News on “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.”

“I am guilty of retiring early and there is a reason for that,” Favre said, according to an excerpt provided to The Associated Press before the Monday night broadcast. “And the major issue is ‘Why did he retire?,’ and ‘He asked for a release because he doesn’t want to play in Green Bay.’ That’s not true. And I hope people are hearing this and saying ‘OK, that clears it up.'”

According to Van Susteren, who spoke to the AP by telephone Monday afternoon, Favre said he was “never fully committed” to retiring and felt pressured by the Packers to make a decision, a notion Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy tried to dispel in an interview with the AP on Saturday.

“Ted always wanted Brett back,” McCarthy said. “We always wanted Brett back.”

Favre told Fox he understands that the Packers want to move on — but if they’re doing so, they should let him go.