Sunday, January 20, 2013

Published:

Obama swears age-old oath, embarks on 2nd term quest to restore economy, combat terrorists

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama was sworn in for four more years Sunday in a simple ceremony at the White House, embarking on a second-term quest to restore a still-shaky economy and combat terrorists overseas while swearing an age-old oath to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution.

"I did it," a smiling president said to his daughter Sasha seconds after following Chief Justice John Roberts in reciting the oath of office. First lady Michelle Obama and the couple's other daughter, Malia, were among relatives who bore witness.

The quiet moments were prelude to Monday's public inaugural events, when Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will be sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol before a crowd expected to reach into the hundreds of thousands and a television audience counted in the millions.

The trappings were in place -- the flag-draped stands ready outside the Capitol and the tables set inside for a traditional lunch with lawmakers. Across town, a specially made reviewing stand rested outside the White House gates for the president and guests to watch the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.

A crowd of perhaps 800,000 was forecast, less than the million-plus that thronged to the nation's capital four years ago to witness the inauguration of the first black president in American history.

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Debate swirls over Martin Luther King's monumental 'content of their character' quote

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

This sentence spoken by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been quoted countless times as expressing one of America's bedrock values, its language almost sounding like a constitutional amendment on equality.

Yet today, 50 years after King shared this vision during his most famous speech, there is considerable disagreement over what it means.

The quote is used to support opposing views on politics, affirmative action and programs intended to help the disadvantaged. Just as the words of the nation's founders are parsed for modern meanings on guns and abortion, so are King's words used in debates over the proper place of race in America.

As we mark the King holiday, what might he ask of us in a time when both the president and a disproportionate number of people in poverty are black? Would King have wanted us to completely ignore race in a "color-blind" society? To consider race as one of many factors about a person? And how do we discern character?

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10 Things to Know for Monday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday:

1. OBAMA'S AMBITIOUS AGENDA FACES THAT DC GRIDLOCK

The 17th president to win re-election has goals that a divided Washington could thwart.

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Here comes the Harbaugh Bowl: 49ers vs. Ravens on Super Sunday for pair of coaching siblings

Get ready for the Brother Bowl.

It'll be Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh when Big Bro John's Baltimore Ravens (13-6) play Little Bro Jim's San Francisco 49ers (13-4-1) in the Super Bowl at New Orleans in two weeks.

As much chatter as there will be about the players involved -- from Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and his impending retirement to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's sudden emergence -- the sibling angle will make this coaching matchup the most scrutinized in the nearly half-century of Super Sundays.

On Thanksgiving Day, 2011, the Harbaughs became the first brothers to coach against each other in any NFL game. Now they'll be squaring off in the biggest one of all.

The 49ers open as 5-point favorites.

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Death toll climbs past 80 at Saharan refinery; Algeria says militants were going to blow it up

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) -- The death toll from the terrorist siege at a natural gas plant in the Sahara climbed past 80 on Sunday as Algerian forces searching the refinery for explosives found dozens more bodies, many so badly disfigured it was unclear whether they were hostages or militants, a security official said.

Algerian special forces stormed the plant on Saturday to end the four-day siege, moving in to thwart what government officials said was a plot by the Islamic extremists to blow up the complex and kill all their captives with mines sown throughout the site.

In a statement, the Masked Brigade, the group that claimed to have masterminded the takeover, warned of more such attacks against any country backing France's military intervention in neighboring Mali, where the French are trying to stop an advance by Islamic extremists.

"We stress to our Muslim brothers the necessity to stay away from all the Western companies and complexes for their own safety, and especially the French ones," the statement said.

Algeria said after Saturday's assault by government forces that at least 32 extremists and 23 hostages were killed. On Sunday, Algerian bomb squads sent in to blow up or defuse the explosives found 25 more bodies, said the security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

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SWAT standoff in Ga. leads to grim findings: a dismembered body and suspect's violent history

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) -- Police went to Chad Moretz's home to ask him about a friend who had gone missing and quickly found themselves in a tense standoff when a relative answered the door and whispered: "He's got a rifle. He's going to kill y'all."

It was at least the fourth time in 18 months deputies had gone to see Moretz. Neighbors and relatives had accused him of chasing his wife with a machete, threatening to kill a man with a handgun and stabbing a dog with a pocket knife. But none of that prepared investigators for what they found Jan. 11 after Moretz walked onto his front porch with an assault rifle and was killed by a SWAT team sniper.

Inside the home, amid filth and roaches and foul odors, police found the missing man's severed head and two hands hidden behind a kitchen cabinet inside a hole in the wall. The rest of the body, dismembered by a power saw and wrapped in bags, was discovered in a storage locker a half-hour away in neighboring South Carolina.

"I don't believe there was a motive," said David Ehsanipoor, an investigator for the Effingham County Sheriff's Office. "It wasn't a drug deal gone bad or a love triangle. Chad was just crazy."

Medical examiners confirmed the body belonged to Charlie Ray, 35. Ray had been a friend of Moretz, and his family had been searching for him since New Year's Eve.

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Sexual offenses, indiscretions are leading causes for firings of US military commanders

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, fired from his command in Afghanistan last May and now facing a court-martial on charges of sodomy, adultery and pornography and more, is just one in a long line of commanders whose careers were ended because of possible sexual misconduct.

Sex has proved to be the downfall of presidential candidates, members of Congress, governors and other notables. It's also among the chief reasons that senior military officers are fired.

At least 30 percent of military commanders fired over the past eight years lost their jobs because of sexually related offenses, including harassment, adultery, and improper relationships, according to statistics compiled by The Associated Press.

The figures bear out growing concerns by Defense Department and military leaders over declining ethical values among U.S. forces, and they highlight the pervasiveness of a problem that came into sharp relief because of the resignation of one of the Army's most esteemed generals, David Petraeus, and the investigation of a second general, John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

The statistics from all four military services show that adulterous affairs are more than a four-star foible. From sexual assault and harassment to pornography, drugs and drinking, ethical lapses are an escalating problem for the military's leaders.

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Get ready for the Har-bowl! Ravens beat Patriots 28-13 to set up Harbaugh-Harbaugh Super Bowl

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- Oh, brother!

John Harbaugh and his Baltimore Ravens set up a family reunion at the Super Bowl, shutting down the New England Patriots 28-13 Sunday in the AFC championship game.

The Ravens reached their first Super Bowl in 12 years, thanks to three touchdown passes from Joe Flacco and a defense led by Ray Lewis that made Tom Brady look downright ordinary.

Next up for Harbaugh and the Ravens is baby brother Jim and the San Francisco 49ers, who beat Atlanta 28-24 earlier in the day for the NFC title.

They'll meet in two weeks in New Orleans -- what a place for a party to celebrate the first brother-vs.-brother coaching matchup in Super Bowl history.

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Bad flu season fuels debate over paid sick time laws, with eyes on a proposal in NYC

NEW YORK (AP) -- Sniffling, groggy and afraid she had caught the flu, Diana Zavala dragged herself in to work anyway for a day she felt she couldn't afford to miss.

A school speech therapist who works as an independent contractor, she doesn't have paid sick days. So the mother of two reported to work and hoped for the best -- and was aching, shivering and coughing by the end of the day. She stayed home the next day, then loaded up on medicine and returned to work.

"It's a balancing act" between physical health and financial well-being, she said.

An unusually early and vigorous flu season is drawing attention to a cause that has scored victories but also hit roadblocks in recent years: mandatory paid sick leave for a third of civilian workers -- more than 40 million people -- who don't have it.

Supporters and opponents are particularly watching New York City, where lawmakers are weighing a sick leave proposal amid a competitive mayoral race.

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Obama declares about first lady's new haircut: 'I love her bangs'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama has rendered his opinion on what he called the most significant event of inaugural weekend: his wife's new haircut.

Said Obama: "I love her bangs. She looks good. She always looks good."

First lady Michelle Obama unveiled the new do in a White House photo released last Thursday, her 49th birthday.

And it has been the talk of the town -- and the airwaves and social media -- ever since.

Obama made the comments Sunday night at a reception in Washington, where he thanked his many donors for their support.