• Nation and World Briefs
    April 30,2014
     

    Washington

    Court wary of phone searches

    The Supreme Court seemed wary Tuesday of allowing police unbridled freedom to search through cellphones of people they arrest, taking on a new issue of privacy in the face of rapidly changing technology.

    The justices appeared ready to reject the Obama administration’s argument that police should be able to make such searches without first getting warrants.

    A key question in two cases argued Tuesday is whether Americans’ cellphones, with vast quantities of sensitive records, photographs and communications, are a private realm much like their homes.

    “People carry their entire lives on their cellphones,” Justice Elena Kagan said.

    The issue involving devices now carried by almost everyone is the latest in which the court is being asked to adapt old legal rules to 21st-century technological advances. “We are living in a new world,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said.





    Washington

    Chamber’s ads back GOP

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pumping money into ads for establishment Republican favorites in North Carolina, Georgia and Alaska, while pointedly calling them conservatives and highlighting their opposition to Washington bureaucrats.

    The commercials, which begin airing on Wednesday, represent the powerful business organization’s determination to tip the balance in crowded, Republican primaries and help the GOP nominate viable general election candidates in Senate races.

    The ads’ description of establishment candidates such as Georgia’s Jack Kingston and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis as “consistent conservative” and “bold conservative” is designed to neutralize criticism and attract the support of far-right GOP voters who have a major say in primaries.

    The Chamber is also launching ads for Republican Senate candidates in Michigan and Montana, and is looking to lift a House candidate in North Carolina.

    The GOP needs to gain six seats to seize the majority in the Senate, and emboldened Republicans, pointing to President Barack Obama’s unpopularity, are bullish about their chances. Establishment Republicans blame some tea party candidates for costing them the majority in the 2010 and 2012 elections.



    Damascus, Syria

    At least 54 killed in urban attacks

    A massive double car bombing and a mortar strike targeted pro-government neighborhoods Tuesday in two of Syria’s largest cities, killing at least 54 people a day after President Bashar Assad declared his candidacy for re-election.

    The attacks in Damascus and Homs heightened fears of an escalation ahead of the contentious June 3 vote and showed that despite a series of battlefield setbacks, the rebels remain capable of hitting the government and its core of support.

    Now in its fourth year, Syria’s conflict has left the country a chaotic tableau of localized battles whose front lines shift back and forth, but have little impact on the wider war. The map of control has remained largely unaltered: Assad holds sway in Damascus and the corridor that runs up to the Mediterranean coast, while the rebels control most of the north along the Turkish border and the Kurdish minority controls a corner in the northeast.

    But the rebels are feeling squeezed in the capital, Damascus, and in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city and an opposition stronghold since the beginning of the uprising against Assad. The government has taken a two-pronged approach to crushing resistance in both areas: suffocating blockades that eventually force cease-fires and a fierce offensive along the Lebanese frontier that has severely restricted the flow of weapons and fighters along cross-border supply lines.

    In Homs, the rebels are growing desperate as government forces ramp up their assault on the last remaining pockets of opposition in the Old City. Among the hundreds of fighters still holding out in besieged districts, some talk of surrender while others have lashed out at the government with suicide car bombings in pro-Assad districts.





    Los Angeles

    Lime prices on the rise

    Every time a bartender at trendy Los Angeles fusion eatery Luna Park squeezes a shot of lime into a drink these days, owner Peter Kohtz says he winces a little.

    Luna Park, known for its large selection of craft cocktails, is one of thousands of restaurants from coast to coast that have fallen victim to the Great Green Citrus Crisis of 2014 — a severe shortage of limes that has meant that the fruit has skyrocketed in price in recent weeks.

    A case of 200 or so fetches between $80 and $130 now, up from about $15 last year — the result of a perfect storm of circumstances from citrus disease that struck Florida in 2001 and wiped out most lime groves to flooding to the efforts of drug cartels to disrupt supplies in Mexico, the biggest U.S. supplier.

    The cost might not seem like that big of a deal until one realizes that it’s lime juice that’s squeezed into every margarita, mojito or mai tai. It’s also lime that’s chopped up and mixed with fresh fish to create ceviche.

    – The Associated Press

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