Report details changes in Libya explanations
WASHINGTON – The FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies – but not the White House – made major changes in talking points that led to the Obama administration’s confusing explanations of the attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, a Senate report concluded Monday.
The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee report said the White House was only responsible for a minor change. Some Republicans had questioned whether the presidential staff rewrote the talking points for political reasons.
The committee, headed by independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, also said the director of national intelligence has been stonewalling the panel in holding back a promised timeline of the talking point changes.
U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the Sept. 11 attack. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said she used the talking points to say in television interviews on Sept. 16 that it may have been a protest that got out of hand.
Maryland gay couples can marry today
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Gay couples were preparing for New Year’s Day weddings Monday in the first state south of the Mason-Dixon Line to allow same-sex marriage, which became legal in Maryland today.
The new law took effect at 12:01 a.m. and comes after a legislative fight that pitted Gov. Martin O’Malley against leaders of his Catholic faith. Voters in the state, founded by Catholics in the 17th century, sealed the change by approving a November ballot question.
Same-sex couples in Maryland have been able to get marriage licenses since Dec. 6, but they do not take effect until today.
In 2011, same-sex marriage legislation passed in the state Senate but stalled in the House of Delegates. O’Malley hadn’t made the issue a key part of his 2011 legislative agenda, but indicated that summer that he was considering backing a measure similar to New York’s law, which includes exemptions for religious organizations.
U.S. Congress reduces spy budget for 2013
WASHINGTON – Congress has drastically trimmed the budget for U.S. spies and satellites for 2013, though not quite as deeply as the White House wanted.
In one of the last votes of the year, House lawmakers voted Monday 373-29 in favor of a Senate-passed bill to slightly boost the president’s $72 billion budget request for intelligence agencies including the CIA, adding extra cash for the counterterrorism fight against al-Qaida, and the counterintelligence fight against foreign governments trying to spy on the U.S.
That’s down sharply from roughly $80 billion in 2012, which marked the peak of intelligence spending since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Parade float to honor Korean War vets
SAN DIEGO – It’s been almost 60 years since James McEachin returned home with a bullet still lodged in his chest, finding an America indifferent toward the troops who fought in Korea. Now he will get the homecoming parade he had expected.
The Defense Department for the first time will put a float in Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses – one of the most watched parades – to commemorate the veterans from a conflict that still casts a shadow over the world.
“I think it’s a magnificent gesture and it cures a lot of ills,” said McEachin, who will be among six veterans who will ride on the float today. The 82-year-old author and actor starred in Perry Mason TV movies, among other things.
The $247,000 flower-covered float will be a replica of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Pentagon’s debut comes ahead of events marking the 60th anniversary of the July 1953 armistice that halted the bloodshed but did not declare peace.
Newtown gunman’s gravesite a mystery
HARTFORD, Conn. – The body of the man who massacred 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school was claimed by his father, a family spokesman said Monday, but the public may never know what happened with the remains.
Like families of other mass killers, Adam Lanza’s father has to balance his own mourning with consideration for the victims, intense media scrutiny and the risk that a public gravesite could be desecrated.
“I know it’s very sensitive for the family. They have many, many concerns and it’s a very sad time for them,” said Kingston, N.H. Police Chief Donald Briggs, a family acquaintance who helped the Lanzas coordinate services for Lanza’s slain mother.
Lanza shot and killed his mother, Nancy, inside their Newtown home on Dec. 14 before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary School, shooting his way in and gunning down 20 first-graders and six school employees. He committed suicide as police arrived. The massacre claimed more lives that any school shooting in U.S. history, except for the 2007 Virginia Tech rampage that left 33 people dead.
Lanza’s father, Peter Lanza, of Stamford, Conn., claimed his son’s body Thursday, and there were “private arrangements” over the weekend, according to the family spokesman.
NYC couple arrested, had terrorist papers
NEW YORK – A woman who gave birth after her arrest and her boyfriend were facing weapons charges Monday after authorities said they found a substance used to make bombs and papers titled The Terrorist Encyclopedia in their Greenwich Village apartment.
Morgan Gliedman, the 27-year-old daughter of a prominent New York City physician, and Aaron Greene, 31, were arrested on weapons-possession charges Saturday after officers with a search warrant discovered a plastic container with 7 grams of HMTD, a highly explosive white powder used in bomb making, police and prosecutors said.
Israel eases ban on building materials
JERUSALEM – Israel has started allowing long-banned building materials into the Gaza Strip, its first key concession to the territory’s Hamas rulers under a cease-fire that ended eight days of intense fighting last month, the military said Monday.
Israel offered an added incentive to the Islamic militant Hamas as well, with the military saying shipments will continue and a 5-year-old blockade of the Palestinian territory may be eased even further if the border remains quiet.
“Now we’re talking about a permanent easing,” said military spokesman Maj. Guy Inbar. He said 20 truckloads a day could enter Gaza depending on demand and other concessions may follow.