Florida man, aspiring model, claims ex-Elmo puppeteer seduced him in NY when he was 16
NEW YORK (AP) -- A Florida man on Tuesday sued a former Elmo puppeteer who resigned amid sex abuse allegations, saying the voice actor met him in New York a dozen years ago after trolling gay telephone chat lines seeking underage boys for sex.
The lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages, was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan by a man who remains anonymous, making him the third person to make claims against Kevin Clash, who resigned from "Sesame Street" last week after 28 years.
Clash had quickly denied the first claim, which was recanted the next day. But Clash then resigned after a 24-year-old college student, Cecil Singleton, sued him for $5 million, saying the actor engaged in sexual behavior with him when he was 15.
According to the latest lawsuit, a 29-year-old man said he met Clash on a chat line when he was 16 and was exploring modeling opportunities in New York. It said the youth, then in high school, specifically stated on the chat line that his intentions were non-sexual. Still, the lawsuit said, Clash pursued, posing as a 30-year-old man whose name was Craig even though he was a decade older.
After speaking by phone for several days, Clash invited the youth to visit his Manhattan apartment, the lawsuit said.
Large crowds stream into Tahrir denouncing new powers seized by Egypt's Islamist president
CAIRO (AP) -- The same chants used against Hosni Mubarak were turned against his successor Tuesday as more than 200,000 people packed Egypt's Tahrir Square in the biggest challenge yet to Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
The massive, flag-waving throng protesting Morsi's assertion of near-absolute powers rivaled some of the largest crowds that helped drive Mubarak from office last year.
"The people want to bring down the regime!" and "erhal, erhal" -- Arabic for "leave, leave" -- rang out across the plaza, this time directed at Egypt's first freely elected president.
The protests were sparked by edicts Morsi issued last week that effectively neutralize the judiciary, the last branch of government he does not control. But they turned into a broader outpouring of anger against Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, which opponents say have used election victories to monopolize power, squeeze out rivals and dictate a new, Islamist constitution, while doing little to solve Egypt's mounting economic and security woes.
Clashes broke out in several cities, with Morsi's opponents attacking Brotherhood offices, setting fire to at least one. Protesters and Brotherhood members pelted each other with stones and firebombs in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla el-Kobra, leaving at least 100 people injured.
Rice concession on initial take about deadly Libya raid fails to mollify 3 GOP senators
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice told lawmakers Tuesday that her initial explanation of the deadly Sept. 11 raid in Libya was wrong, but her concession failed to mollify three Republican senators who signaled they would try to block her possible nomination to be secretary of state.
In a closed-door meeting that Rice requested, the ambassador answered questions from Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte about her much-maligned explanations about the cause of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. She was joined by acting CIA Director Michael Morell.
"The talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: There was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi," Rice said in a statement after the meeting. "While we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case the intelligence assessment has evolved."
Rice's unusual visit to Capitol Hill -- typically only nominees meet privately with lawmakers -- reflects the Obama administration's campaign for the current front-runner to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton against some strenuous GOP opposition.
"We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn't get concerning evidence that was leading up to the attack on the consulate," McCain told reporters after emerging from the hour-plus session that he described as candid.
GOP-Democratic disconnect persists in public as 'cliff' clock ticks; In private, who knows?
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans' newfound willingness to consider tax increases to avert the "fiscal cliff" comes with a significant caveat: larger cuts than Democrats seem willing to consider to benefit programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the president's health care overhaul.
The disconnect on benefit programs, coupled with an impasse between Republicans and the White House over raising tax rates on upper-bracket earners, paints a bleak picture as the clock ticks toward a year-end fiscal debacle of automatic spending increases and harsh cuts to the Pentagon and domestic programs.
Democrats emboldened by the election are moving in the opposite direction from the GOP on curbing spending, refusing to look at cuts that were on the bargaining table just last year. Those include any changes to Social Security, even though President Barack Obama was willing back then to consider cuts in future benefits through lower cost-of-living increases. Obama also considered raising the eligibility age for Medicare, an idea that most Democrats oppose.
"I haven't seen any suggestions on what they're going to do on spending," a frustrated Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Tuesday. "There's a certain cockiness that I've seen that is really astounding to me since we're basically in the same position we were before."
Well, says Obama's most powerful ally on Capitol Hill, the Democrats are willing to tackle spending on entitlement programs if Republicans agree to raise income tax rates on the wealthiest Americans -- a nonstarter with Republicans still in control of the House.
As rival throws hat into race, Israel's Netanyahu suddenly seems vulnerable in re-election bid
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who appeared to be cruising to re-election a few weeks ago, suddenly appears vulnerable as the country prepares to go to the polls in January.
The political comeback of a popular former foreign minister on Tuesday, coupled with the ruling Likud Party's selection of an especially hard-line slate of candidates, has suddenly raised questions about Netanyahu's prospects. Eager to portray Netanyahu as an extremist, opposition parties see an opportunity to mount a formidable challenge to the Israeli leader.
Ousting Netanyahu remains a formidable task, but the return of Tzipi Livni, who served as Israel's foreign minister and chief peace negotiator from 2006 to 2009, injected a high-profile name into what had been a lackluster race. Well respected internationally, Livni immediately took aim at what she called a "leadership vacuum" and promised an aggressive push for peace with the Palestinians.
"I came to fight for peace," she said. "And I won't allow anyone to turn peace into a bad word."
During Netanyahu's nearly four years in office, peace efforts with the Palestinians have remained frozen.
Track suit: Family challenges 'locator' chips embedded in student ID cards at Texas schools
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- To 15-year-old Andrea Hernandez, the tracking microchip embedded in her student ID card is a "mark of the beast," sacrilege to her Christian faith -- not to mention how it pinpoints her location, even in the school bathroom.
But to her budget-reeling San Antonio school district, those chips carry a potential $1.7 million in classroom funds.
Starting this fall, the fourth-largest school district in Texas is experimenting with "locator" chips in student ID badges on two of its campuses, allowing administrators to track the whereabouts of 4,200 students with GPS-like precision. Hernandez's refusal to participate isn't a twist on teenage rebellion, but has launched a debate over privacy and religion that has forged a rare like-mindedness between typically opposing groups.
When Hernandez and her parents balked at the so-called SmartID, the school agreed to remove the chip but still required her to wear the badge. The family refused on religious grounds, stating in a lawsuit that even wearing the badge was tantamount to "submission of a false god" because the card still indicated her participation.
On Wednesday, a state district judge is expected to decide whether Northside Independent School District can transfer Hernandez to a different campus.
NY gays accuse NJ 'conversion therapy' group of fraud, claiming ability to make them straight
NEW YORK (AP) -- Four gay men accused a New Jersey organization of fraud Tuesday for selling "conversion therapy" with false promises to make them straight.
They said during a Manhattan news conference that they were subjected to humiliations that included stripping naked and taking a baseball bat to effigies of their mothers.
The four attended sessions at the Jersey City, N.J.-based Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing, or JONAH. The nonprofit advertises in Jewish publications and claims to rid men of same-sex attractions.
Three of the men are Jewish -- Chaim Levin, Benjamin Unger, and Sheldon Bruck. The fourth, Michael Ferguson, is a Mormon now living in Salt Lake City who was a college student in New York when he signed up for the services.
The men say in a lawsuit that the methods do not work and should not be marketed under New Jersey's consumer protection laws. They say the suit was filed Tuesday in New Jersey, but officials there could not confirm receiving it.
Female military members file federal lawsuit seeking service in combat units
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Four female service members filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the Pentagon's ban on women serving in combat, hoping the move will add pressure to drop the policy just as officials are gauging the effect that lifting the prohibition will have on morale.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, is the second one this year over the 1994 rule that bars women from being assigned to ground combat units, which are smaller and considered more dangerous since they are often in battle for longer periods.
The legal effort comes less than a year after the ban on gays serving openly was lifted and as officials are surveying Marines about whether women would be a distraction in ground combat units.
"I'm trying to get rid of the ban with a sharp poke," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, who was among the plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit and was injured in 2007 when her Humvee ran over an improvised explosive device in Iraq.
Hunt and the other three women said the policy unfairly blocks them from promotions and other advancements open to men in combat. Three of the women are in the reserves. A fourth, Marine Corp Lt. Colleen Farrell, leaves active duty this week.
Record Powerball jackpot is the result of game changes designed to create bigger payouts
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- The historic Powerball jackpot boosted to $500 million on Tuesday was all part of a plan lottery officials put in place early this year to build jackpots faster, drive sales and generate more money for states that run the game.
Their plan appears to be working.
Powerball tickets doubled in price in January to $2, and while the number of tickets sold initially dropped, sales revenue has increased by about 35 percent over 2011.
Sales for Powerball reached a record $3.96 billion in fiscal 2012 and are expected to reach $5 billion this year, said Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Des Moines, Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association, the group that runs the Powerball game.
There has been no Powerball winner since Oct. 6, and the jackpot already has reached a record level for the game. It was first posted at $425 million but revised upward to $500 million when brisk sales increased the payout. It's the second highest jackpot in lottery history, behind only the $656 million Mega Millions prize in March.
Soldiers say Mexican beauty queen had gun in her hands, may have been used as human shield
CULIACAN, Mexico (AP) -- A Mexican beauty queen killed over the weekend in a shootout between suspected drug traffickers and soldiers likely was being used as a human shield, a federal official said Tuesday.
Maria Susana Flores Gamez, crowned 2012 Woman of Sinaloa in February, came out of the car first with a gun in her hands during the confrontation, with the other gunmen hiding behind her, according to the official from the attorney general's office.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
The official said he read the military report of Saturday's shootout in Flores Gamez's hometown of Guamuchil in western Sinaloa state, home to Mexico's most powerful cartel of the same name. The attorney general's investigators are still trying to determine if the 20-year-old fired the gun she was holding.
The report said she went down in a hail of gunfire. She was found dead near an assault rifle along with two others.