In brief: Graham says he’ll delay CIA, defense approvals
WASHINGTON – Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., still not satisfied with the administration’s answers to questions about the attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya, said Sunday that he would try to delay Senate confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominees for defense secretary and CIA director.
Graham, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he would seek to block votes on Chuck Hagel as defense secretary and John Brennan as CIA director until he gets a better explanation of what the president was doing during the attack in September on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Graham said he would put a hold on the two confirmation votes. Under Senate rules, a hold can be a tough procedural obstacle. Sixty votes are needed to end a hold and bring a motion to the Senate floor.
Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, also appearing on the program, said Graham’s threat was “unprecedented and unwarranted.”
NATO Afghanistan force under new command
KABUL, Afghanistan – Gen. Joseph Dunford took over Sunday as probably the last U.S. commander in Afghanistan with the job of ending America’s longest war as insurgents continue to challenge the U.S.-backed Afghan government.
Dunford, a four-star Marine officer, arrives as the U.S.-led NATO coalition has dismantled three-quarters of its 800 bases and watches to see whether the Afghan security forces it trained can keep the Taliban at bay.
A ceremony inside the coalition’s compound in Kabul marked the end of the 19-month tenure of Gen. John Allen, who has been nominated to lead NATO forces in Europe.
Reality TV set helicopter crash leaves three dead
LOS ANGELES – Three people were killed Sunday in a predawn helicopter crash in a rural area of northern Los Angeles County while filming for a new reality TV show for the Discovery Channel.
The copter crashed at about 3:40 a.m. at the popular filming location of Polsa Rosa Ranch in the city of Acton, Los Angeles County Fire dispatcher Robert Diaz said.
All three people aboard died, Diaz said. Their names weren’t immediately released.
The show, listed on a filming permit as an untitled military-theme TV program, had not yet been aired or announced by Discovery, said channel spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg.
Several people detained in tourist rape case
ACAPULCO, Mexico – Mexican authorities announced Sunday that several people had been detained for investigation in connection with last week’s rape of six Spanish tourists in Acapulco, a crime that further blemished the reputation of this troubled Pacific resort.
Guerrero state officials declined to say how many suspects were in custody.
Gov. Angel Aguirre said two of those detained were also were being investigated in connection with another rape case. He said the two had been identified by victims in that case, but he added that no identifications had been made by victims in the rape of the Spanish women.
About 40 people who briefly blocked the road to Acapulco’s airport said five of their relatives had been detained in the case. They charged that the men were wrongly arrested and were being made scapegoats.
President’s party quits government
TUNIS, Tunisia – Tunisia’s political crisis entered a new phase Sunday with an announcement that Cabinet ministers of the president’s own party are quitting the governing coalition, which could force the ruling Islamists to compromise with the opposition.
Veteran observers of Tunisia’s political scene caution that the nation’s well-earned reputation as a stable bastion of moderation is at risk, if the ruling Ennahda Party of moderate Islamists mishandles its response to Wednesday’s assassination of opposition politician Chokri Belaid.
The killing of Belaid – who carried out the shooting remains unknown – was the culmination of months of deadlock between the opposition and the governing coalition of the the Ennahda Party and two secular parties.
Following the assassination, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali offered the compromise long sought by the opposition and said he would form a government of technocrats unconnected to political parties, to see the country through the crisis and to new elections. However, his party rejected his plan, saying they had been elected by the people and should continue to rule – highlighting the divisions not just between the government and the opposition, but within the governing party itself.