Nation & World Briefly Nov. 15

High court showdown: Ruling on Obama health law likely by election - after extended arguments

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court on Monday promised an extraordinarily thorough springtime review of President Barack Obama's historic health care overhaul - more than five hours of argument, unprecedented in modern times - in time for a likely ruling affecting millions of Americans just before the presidential election.

That ruling, expected before next summer's Independence Day holiday, could determine the fate of Obama's signature domestic achievement, the most far reaching domestic legislation in a generation but a political lightning rod as well. It is vigorously opposed by all of Obama's prospective GOP opponents.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aims to provide health insurance to more than 30 million previously uninsured Americans. But Republicans have branded the law unconstitutional since before Obama signed it in a ceremony in March 2010.

The court's ruling could be its most significant and political decision since George W. Bush's 2000 presidential election victory. But the justices left themselves an opening to defer the outcome if they choose, by requesting arguments on one lower court's ruling that a decision must wait until 2015, when one of the law's many provisions takes effect.

Legal experts have offered a range of opinions about what the high court might do. Many prominent Supreme Court lawyers believe the law will be upheld by a lopsided vote, with Republican and Democratic appointees ruling in its favor. But others predict a close outcome, with Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Republican appointee who sometimes joins his four colleagues appointed by Democratic presidents, holding the deciding vote on the nine-member court.


House GOP leader Cantor declines to take stand on higher taxes backed by fellow Republicans

WASHINGTON (AP) - Sidestepping controversy, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., declined to take sides Monday on a proposal for higher tax revenues backed by fellow Republicans on Congress' supercommittee, yet expressed confidence the panel would agree on a deficit-reduction plan of at least $1.2 trillion by a Nov. 23 deadline.

A proposal for $300 billion in higher taxes has stirred grumbling within the ranks of congressional Republicans, for whom opposition to such measures has been political bedrock for more than two decades.

Two of the party's presidential hopefuls said Monday they wouldn't support any committee deficit-reduction plan that includes higher taxes.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, campaigning in Iowa, said he would "do everything in my power to defeat" any such proposal.

A spokesman for Rick Perry said the Texas governor "wants to look at details but if those details include a tax increase he's not going to be for it. He does not favor higher taxes," added David Miner.


Sandusky says he's innocent in interview with NBC, says it was just horseplay, not abuse

NEW YORK (AP) - A former Penn State football assistant coach charged with sexually abusing eight boys in a scandal that has rocked the university said Monday that there was no abuse and that any activities in a campus shower with a boy were just horseplay, not molestation.

In a telephone interview Monday night on NBC News' "Rock Center," Bob Costas asked Jerry Sandusky if he's a pedophile and Sandusky responded, "No."

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on its website late Monday that close to 10 additional suspected victims have come forward to authorities since Sandusky's arrest, according to people close to the investigation. The paper said police were working to confirm the new allegations.

Sandusky, once considered veteran coach Joe Paterno's heir apparent, was arrested more than a week ago and is charged with sexually abusing eight boys, some on Penn State property, over a 15-year span.

"I am innocent of those charges," the 67-year-old Sandusky said. "... I could say that I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them, and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact."


Cain accuser's then-boyfriend says they all met, countering GOP candidate's account

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - Sharon Bialek's former boyfriend said Monday the then-couple spent an evening with Herman Cain in the 1990s. That countered the GOP presidential candidate's earlier statements that he never met the woman who has accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior more than a decade ago.

"Sharon indeed did meet and spend time with Mr. Cain," Victor Jay Zuckerman said.

In turn, Cain repeated his assertion that he had never met his accuser.

"I'm standing by what I have said," Cain said in Green Bay, Wis.

Hours after Zuckerman stepped forward to give his account, an interview with Gloria Cain aired on Fox News Channel. Mrs. Cain defended her husband as turmoil over allegations of sexual impropriety while he led the National Restaurant Association stretched into a third week.


Oakland raid is latest police crackdown on Occupy camps that officials call safety hazards

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Police clad in riot gear and armed with tear gas cleared out Oakland's anti-Wall Street encampment early Monday, the latest law enforcement crackdown amid complaints around the country of health and safety hazards at protest camps.

The raid at the Occupy Oakland camp, one of the largest and most active sites in the movement, came a day after police in Portland, Ore., arrested more than 50 people while shutting down its camp amid complaints of drug use and sanitation issues.

Police in Burlington, Vt., also evicted protesters after a man fatally shot himself last week inside a tent.

Police staged a previous raid on the Oakland encampment Oct. 25, but Mayor Jean Quan allowed protesters to re-establish their tent city. On Monday, however, Quan said officials could no longer ignore the problems the camp posed.

"We came to this point because Occupy Oakland, I think, began to take a different path than the original movement," Quan said. "The encampment became a place where we had repeated violence and last week a murder. We had to bring the camp to an end before more people got hurt."


In Iowa, Republican Newt Gingrich points to debates for recent rise, credited with upbeat tone

JEFFERSON, Iowa (AP) - His public support growing, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Monday that voters are taking a second look at his candidacy because he proved during recent debates that he understands the enormity of the nation's problems.

But he didn't really have to make the point. Lillie Anderson made it for him.

"I didn't enter this campaign a Gingrich fan," the 76-year-old Des Moines Republican told Gingrich after he addressed more than 100 employees of a Des Moines-area insurance company. "I'm closer than I was. I'm more interested now."

Gingrich would have GOP voters like Anderson in Iowa and other early voting states believe he is on the verge of an astounding rebound, after losing most of his campaign staff in June after a spiral of bad news, including embarrassing financial revelations.

But the former House speaker returned Monday near the top in a new round of national surveys. He promised to dispatch staff to Iowa for the first time in five months and sharpened his attack on a congressional panel's effort to cut federal spending.


Catholic diocese raises offer for Crystal Cathedral found by televangelist Robert Schuller

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - A federal bankruptcy court hearing aimed at settling the future of the financially ailing Crystal Cathedral turned into a bidding match Monday with a university and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange competing to buy the church's sprawling grounds.

The daylong hearing also highlighted a deepening rift between the Rev. Robert Schuller and the ministry he created more than 50 years ago over intellectual property rights and lifetime payments to the founder of the megachurch.

The Diocese - which wants to use the gleaming 3,000-seat sanctuary for a countywide cathedral - boosted its bid for the property to $57.5 million from $55.4 million to ensure enough money would be available to cover yet-to-be-quantified claims made by the Schuller family.

"We felt it was important to increase the offer to address the feasibility concerns," Alan Martin, an attorney for the diocese, said on a break from a hearing Monday.

In response, Orange County's Chapman University - which wants to expand its health services offerings and possibly start a medical school on the site - offered to alter its $51.5 million bid to include a 15-year lease of key buildings on the 40-acre campus like the Crystal Cathedral, bell tower and cemetery for $1 a month, if the church desired.


Struggling to speak, Giffords says she won't return to Congress until she is 'better'

WASHINGTON (AP) - Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, struggling to form the words in her first extended interview since a January shooting rampage, said Monday she will not return to Congress until she is "better."

"No. Better," she said in response to a question about whether she wanted to return to Congress.

As she gestured as if to help her form the words, her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, completed the thought: "She wants to get better."

At that point, interviewer Diane Sawyer also tried to get Giffords to summarize her mindset, asking whether she was thinking she would go back to Congress if she got better. "And that's where you're at right now?" Sawyer asked.

"Yes, yes, yes," Giffords replied.


Rodgers throws 4 TDs, Cobb runs back punt as Packers beat Vikings 45-7

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - Another night, another four-touchdown performance for Aaron Rodgers - just about what the Green Bay Packers have come to expect from their superstar quarterback.

The real surprise came on the other side of the ball: A defense that finally showed it can take charge of a game.

The Packers (9-0) remain the NFL's lone undefeated team. And if they now can count on a defense to complement their high-octane offense, they just might be unstoppable.

Rodgers threw for four scores against a fierce Vikings pass rush, Randall Cobb returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown and the Packers defense contained Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings in a 45-7 victory on Monday night.

Green Bay's defense came into the game giving up nearly 300 yards passing per game, second-most in the NFL. Their last time out, the Packers nearly blew a big lead in the fourth quarter at San Diego, holding on for a 45-38 victory.


Players reject NBA's offer, threatening season; Stern calls disbanding union a 'charade'

NEW YORK (AP) - NBA players delivered a resounding but risky response to one more ultimatum from NBA Commissioner David Stern: See you in court.

The players' association rejected the league's latest proposal for a new labor deal Monday and began disbanding, paving the way for a lawsuit that throws the season in jeopardy.

Negotiating went nowhere, so now the union is going away.

And Stern said "nuclear winter" is coming.

"We're prepared to file this antitrust action against the NBA," union executive director Billy Hunter said. "That's the best situation where players can get their due process."


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