Thursday, November 8, 2012

Published:

Changes coming to Obama administration for second term -- but not while fiscal cliff threatens

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Big changes are coming to President Barack Obama's administration -- just not right away.

The White House is making the nation's high-stakes fiscal crisis its top priority coming out of the election, underscoring the vital importance of averting severe year-end tax increases and spending cuts, not just for the economy but in setting the tone for Obama's second term.

Still, Obama is weighing replacements for high-profile officials expected to leave his Cabinet and the White House soon. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton both want to step down but have indicated a willingness to push their departures into next year, or at least until successors are confirmed. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also wants to retire next year.

"The first thing is to try to find a way out of the box we're in with regards to the fiscal cliff," said Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader who is close to Obama. "When the new Congress convenes they'll begin the nominating process for what I expect will be a good number of vacancies."

Obama privately delved into both issues Thursday, his first full day back in Washington following his re-election on Tuesday. The president and his team were also assessing how congressional Republicans were positioning themselves following the election before saying much publicly about his second term.

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A look at who is expected to leave the Obama administration in second term

President Barack Obama is weighing replacements for several White House aides and Cabinet members expected to leave before his second term begins, or early in his second term.

Among those expected to leave and some names mentioned as possible replacements (in parentheses):

-- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.; U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice; former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman; Deputy Secretary of State William Burns).

-- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. (White House chief of staff Jack Lew; former Bill Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles).

-- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. (Ashton Carter, Panetta's deputy; Michele Flournoy, former Defense Department policy chief).

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10 Things to Know for Friday

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

1. WHY OBAMA'S IN A BIND

He's got to stand his ground against the GOP, and risk falling off the "fiscal cliff," or reach a compromise -- and risk angering liberal Democrats.

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Defense officials: 7 Navy SEALs punished for disclosing classified information to video maker

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Seven members of the secretive Navy SEAL Team 6, including one involved in the mission to get Osama bin Laden, have been punished for disclosing classified information, senior Navy officials said Thursday.

Four other SEALs are under investigation for similar alleged violations, one official said.

The SEALs are alleged to have divulged classified information to the maker of a video game called "Medal of Honor: Warfighter."

Each of the seven received a punitive letter of reprimand and a partial forfeiture of pay for two months. Those actions generally hinder a military member's career.

The deputy commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Adm. Garry Bonelli, issued a statement acknowledging that nonjudicial punishments had been handed out for misconduct, but he did not offer any details.

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Gas to be rationed in NYC, Long Island to ease hourslong lines for fuel after superstorm

NEW YORK (AP) -- With long gas lines persisting more than a week after Superstorm Sandy, New York imposed a gasoline rationing plan Thursday that lets motorists fill up every other day.

Police will be at gas stations Friday morning to enforce the new system in New York City and on Long Island. Gas will be available to drivers with license-plate numbers ending in an odd number or a letter on Friday. On Saturday, drivers with license plates that end in even numbers or zero can fuel up.

"It'll be bad. How am I going to get my jobs done?" said Parris Hancock, a driver for a Manhattan catering company who makes deliveries from morning to night. "I'll have to get up at 4 a.m. and just keep going back for gas and waiting in long lines."

Officials said something had to be done to ease the long waits for fuel, which they say has caused panic-buying and hoarding.

"This is designed to let everybody have a fair chance, so the lines aren't too oppressive and that we can get through this," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

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Frustration and anger mount over lingering power outages after Sandy; Cuomo blasts utilities

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) -- Vincent Pina finally saw a couple of utility trucks coming down his street Thursday and started to wave in anticipation. But they just cruised past his house and kept on going.

He hung his head in resignation.

"The thing that gets me the most is that there is no flood damage. I don't have any branches down. I have no wires down," said the Long Islander, who put a hand-painted sign out front that read: "Still No Power."

So why, he wondered, was it taking so long to get electricity?

A week and a half after Superstorm Sandy slammed the coast and inflicted tens of billions of dollars in damage, hundreds of thousands of customers in New York and New Jersey are still waiting for the electricity to come back on, and lots of cold and tired people are losing patience. Some are demanding investigations of utilities they say aren't working fast enough.

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Syrian children most common sight at refugee camp

ATMEH, Syria (AP) -- Most of the displaced people in the tent camp rising near this village on the Syrian-Turkish border are children.

All have fled the violence of Syria's civil war farther south. Many have seen violence themselves. Some have lost relatives, and most have trouble sleeping and panic when they hear loud noises or airplanes, their parents say.

Fighting between the forces of President Bashar Assad and rebels seeking to topple him has sent hundreds of thousands Syrians streaming into neighboring countries.

Rebel organizers say the Atmeh camp was born of necessity some three months ago when Turkey began drastically reducing the number of Syrians allowed to enter that country, leaving tens of thousands stranded in the border area.

Turkey says that more than 112,000 Syrian refugees are sheltering in Turkish camps, and that the crossing process has slowed because of stringent security checks.

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Syria's main opposition bloc to pick chief, then decide whether to join new leadership group

DOHA, Qatar (AP) -- Syrian opposition leaders say they have made progress toward forging a broad-based leadership group sought by the international community.

Riad Seif, the author of the proposal, says the main opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council, deferred a decision until after a final round of internal elections Friday. Seif says some of the SNC members present during day-long talks Thursday signaled they accept the idea of setting up a new 60-member leadership group.

The leadership group is to serve as a conduit for foreign support for those trying to oust President Bashar Assad.

The SNC is hesitant because it would receive only 22 seats to make room for activists inside Syria. Seif says the SNC will make a final decision Friday afternoon, after picking a new chief and executive committee.

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Judge sentences man to life in prison for shooting Ariz. Rep. Giffords, killing 6 in rampage

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Gabrielle Giffords limped to the front of the courtroom and stared silently Thursday as she came face-to-face for the first time with the man who tried to kill her.

The former congresswoman hadn't been near Jared Lee Loughner since the deadly rampage outside a meet-and-greet at a supermarket that killed six people and left her partially blind, with a paralyzed right arm and brain injury.

Giffords' astronaut husband told Loughner what Giffords couldn't, before he was sentenced to seven life terms for the January 2011 slayings and attempted assassination of a member of Congress.

"Mr. Loughner, you may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place," Mark Kelly said.

Giffords, wearing a black brace around her torso, looked closely at the 24-year-old Loughner for several minutes without uttering a word.

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Colts take 17-3 lead over Jaguars into halftime thanks to 2 rushing scores by Luck

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Colts rookie Andrew Luck ran for two touchdowns and Adam Vinatieri added a field goal as the Indianapolis Colts took a 17-3 lead into halftime against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night.

Luck was surgical throughout the half, keeping drives alive with several long passes.

He scored on a close 4th-and-goal quarterback sneak for his second touchdown, prompting Jacksonville coach Mike Mularkey to throw his play sheet as he ran onto the field arguing for a review.

He was assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and told the play was reviewed and the ruling on the field confirmed.

That seven-play, 61-yard drive was set up by the Colts winning a challenge on a fumble by Laurent Robinson.