Anti-bias gay rights employment bill clears first major hurdle in the Senate
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate pushed a major anti-bias gay rights bill past a first, big hurdle Monday, a clear sign of Americans' greater acceptance of homosexuality nearly two decades after the law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
The vote of 61-30 essentially ensured that the Senate has the votes to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would prohibit workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
Final passage, possibly by week's end, would cap a 17-year quest to secure Senate support for a similar discrimination measure that failed by one vote in 1996, the same year Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act.
Reflecting the nation's shifting views toward gay rights and the fast-changing political dynamic, seven Senate Republicans joined with 54 Democrats to vote to move ahead on the legislation.
"Rights are sometimes intangible but, boy if you've ever been discriminated against, seeking employment or seeking an advancement, it's bitter," Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the only openly gay member of the Senate, said after the vote. "And it's been a long, long fight, but I think its day has come. And that's just very exciting to witness."
Iranian protesters rally behind 'death to America' in defiant message against thaw
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- In Tehran's largest anti-U.S. rally in years, tens of thousands of demonstrators joined Monday in chants of "death to America" as hard-liners directed a major show of resolve against President Hassan Rouhani's outreach to Washington more than a generation after crowds on the same streets stormed and occupied the U.S. Embassy.
Such American-bashing protests occur every year outside the former embassy compound to mark the anniversary of the 1979 takeover following the Islamic Revolution. But the latest demonstration had a dual purpose of sending the boldest warning yet to Rouhani's government over whether it can expand dialogue with the U.S. or offer the concessions needed to possibly settle the nuclear impasse with the West.
"Fighting the global arrogance and hostile policies of America is the symbol of our national solidarity," said Saeed Jalili, who lost to Rouhani in June's election and later was replaced as the country's top nuclear negotiator.
The choice of Jalili as the main speaker to the crowd showed how high the rifts reach in Iran.
Jalili is a leading voice of dissent over Rouhani's overtures to Washington, but he is also a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has given critical support to Rouhani's initiatives. The growing tensions have left Khamenei -- the ultimate decision-maker in Iran -- in the unusual role of domestic diplomat.
10 Things to Know for Tuesday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday:
1. ANTI-GAY BIAS BILL PROGRESSES IN SENATE
By a 61-30 vote, lawmakers agree to move ahead on legislation to prohibit workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
NJ and Virginia top slate of elections coast to coast on Tuesday
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- From rural Iowa to urban New York, voters across America will render judgment in a slate of political contests Tuesday, including in New Jersey and Virginia where gubernatorial race outcomes could highlight the Republican Party division between pragmatists and ideologues.
Elsewhere, Colorado voters will set a tax rate for marijuana.
New York City will elect a new mayor for the first time in 12 years, while Boston's mayoral race pits white collar against blue collar, and Detroit's spotlights the city's bankruptcy -- just three of the many mayoral contests from coast to coast.
Republican and Democratic strategists alike say that Tuesday's contests are more defined by candidate personalities and region-specific issues than political trends likely to influence next year's larger fight for control of Congress. Turnout is expected to be low across the country, typical for elections held in years when the White House and Congress aren't up for grabs.
Candidates across the country made their last pitches to voters as local elections boards made their final preparations.
Police searching for gunman after shots fired at mall in Paramus
PARAMUS, N.J. (AP) --
Police are searching for a gunman at a mall in northern New Jersey after shots were fired inside it just before closing.
WCBS-TV reports that shots were fired at Westfield Garden State Plaza Mall around 9:30 p.m. Monday. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
People inside the mall tell the television station that it is on lockdown.
Frightened customers are tweeting that they're being escorted out by armed state troopers. One woman writes that she ran from the mall "screaming."
US prosecutor: Hedge fund giant SAC Capital to plead guilty to fraud in NYC, pay $1.8 billion
NEW YORK (AP) -- SAC Capital Advisors will plead guilty to criminal fraud charges, stop investing money for others and pay $1.8 billion -- the largest financial penalty in history for insider trading -- to resolve criminal and civil claims against the hedge fund giant, the government announced Monday.
The government said in a letter to judges presiding over Manhattan cases that the "proposed global resolution" of the criminal and civil cases against SAC Capital Advisors and related companies also includes an agreement that SAC will cease operating as an investment adviser and will not accept any additional funds from third-party investors.
The company will pay a $900 million fine and forfeit another $900 million to the federal government, though $616 million that SAC companies have already agreed to pay to settle parallel actions by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will be deducted from the $1.8 billion.
The government called the penalties "steep but fair" and "commensurate with the breadth and duration of the charged criminal conduct."
Early in the afternoon, SAC Capital said in a statement: "We take responsibility for the handful of men who pleaded guilty and whose conduct gave rise to SAC's liability. The tiny fraction of wrongdoers does not represent the 3,000 honest men and women who have worked at the firm during the past 21 years. SAC has never encouraged, promoted or tolerated insider trading."
Egypt's ousted president defiant in court as he makes 1st public appearance in 4 months
CAIRO (AP) -- Ousted President Mohammed Morsi refused to wear a prison jumpsuit, entering the caged dock in a dark business suit as his co-defendants applauded. He defiantly questioned the legitimacy of the court and proclaimed himself still Egypt's leader. His fellow Muslim Brotherhood members chanted, "Down with military rule!"
Morsi's long-awaited trial got off to a chaotic start Monday, with outbursts and interruptions, and it was quickly adjourned until Jan. 8.
The dramatic first public appearance for Morsi since the July 3 military coup that removed him from power was meant to be a step toward due process. Instead, it highlighted the challenges facing Egypt's interim authorities as they attempt to close a chapter of his presidency, while his Islamist supporters seek to disrupt the effort.
Morsi and 14 co-defendants -- seven of whom are still at large -- are charged with inciting the killing of protesters who massed outside the presidential palace in December 2012 and demanded that he call off a referendum on a new Islamist-drafted constitution. Brotherhood members attacked a sit-in by the protesters, sparking clashes that left 10 people dead.
Before Monday's session began, silent video broadcast on state TV showed Morsi arriving in a minibus outside the makeshift courtroom at a police academy in eastern Cairo. He wore the dark suit, light shirt and no tie, flanked by burly policemen.
Investigators try to piece together what motivated LAX suspect's hatred toward TSA
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The man accused of opening fire at Los Angeles International Airport, shooting employees and terrorizing travelers, accomplished two of his goals, according to authorities: killing a Transportation Security Administration officer and showing how easy it is to get a gun into an airport.
The deadly rampage left investigators to piece together what motivated Paul Ciancia's hatred toward the agency formed to make air travel safer after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But the attack could ultimately lead to changes in the way airports are patrolled.
Ciancia, who was shot four times by airport police, remained in critical condition Monday. He has not been scheduled to appear in court. Any appearance will depend on when his doctors say he's ready, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
The FBI said Ciancia had a handwritten letter, stating that he made the conscious decision to try to kill multiple TSA officers and "instill fear in your traitorous minds."
The unemployed motorcycle mechanic who recently moved to Los Angeles from the small, blue-collar town of Pennsville, N.J., had a friend drop him at LAX on Friday just moments before he pulled a .223-caliber assault rifle from his duffel bag and opened fire, killing one TSA officer and wounding three other people, including two more TSA workers.
Hollywood targeted to give Affordable Care Act a boost with TV story lines about the new law
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The health care overhaul might get a Hollywood rewrite.
The California Endowment, a private foundation that is spending millions to promote President Barack Obama's signature law, recently provided a $500,000 grant to ensure TV writers and producers have information about the Affordable Care Act that can be stitched into plot lines watched by millions.
The aim is to produce compelling prime-time narratives that encourage Americans to enroll, especially the young and healthy, Hispanics and other key demographic groups needed to make the overhaul a success.
"We know from research that when people watch entertainment television, even if they know it's fiction, they tend to believe that the factual stuff is actually factual," said Martin Kaplan of the University of Southern California's Norman Lear Center, which received the grant.
The public typically gets as much, if not more, information about current events from favorite TV programs as mainstream news outlets, Kaplan said, so "people learn from these shows."
Study says there are billions of Earth-like, just-right planets out there
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Space is vast, but it may not be so lonely after all: A study finds the Milky Way is teeming with billions of planets that are about the size of Earth, orbit stars just like our sun, and exist in the Goldilocks zone -- not too hot and not too cold for life.
Astronomers using NASA data have calculated for the first time that in our galaxy alone, there are at least 8.8 billion stars with Earth-size planets in the habitable temperature zone.
The study was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
For perspective, that's more Earth-like planets than there are people on Earth.
As for what it says about the odds that there is life somewhere out there, it means "just in our Milky Way galaxy alone, that's 8.8 billion throws of the biological dice," said study co-author Geoff Marcy, a longtime planet hunter from the University of California at Berkeley.