Selasa, 19 November 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Measure to limit abortions appears headed for defeat in Albuquerque, New Mexico


SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) - A municipal ballot measure that would outlaw most late-term abortions in New Mexico's largest city appeared headed for defeat in a special election by Albuquerque voters, early returns showed on Tuesday.

The measure, were it approved, would bar doctors within city limits from performing abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, allowing for few of the exemptions permitted in most late-term abortion bans enacted in other states in recent years.

No exceptions are made for victims of rape or incest. The ban could be waived only to save a mother's life or if continuing her pregnancy risked "substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function" for the mother.

A record number of city voters were reported to have cast early ballots in the special election. And an unusually high overall turnout was expected due to the controversial nature of the measure, which is believed to be the first proposed abortion restriction to be placed on a municipal ballot in the United States.

With results from more than half of the city's voting centres tabulated, voters appeared on their way toward rejecting the measure, 55 percent to 45 percent, according to figures posted online by the city about 90 minutes after the polls closed.

Public opinion polls suggested sentiment had swung against the Albuquerque initiative since early September, when 54 percent of city voters said they backed the proposal.

Abortion rights advocates had vowed to challenge the measure in court should it pass.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, but ruled that unless the mother's health were at risk, states could place restrictions on abortion at the point when a foetus could potentially survive outside the womb, generally seen as starting at 22 to 24 weeks of gestation.

A full-term pregnancy typically is about 40 weeks, and abortions after 20 weeks are rare.

Still, abortion opponents have pushed the boundaries of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in recent years by seeking to curtail abortions at earlier stages of pregnancy.

The Albuquerque measure was patterned after restrictions enacted by a dozen states based on hotly debated medical research suggesting a foetus feels pain starting at 20 weeks of gestation.

Two of those states, North Dakota and Arkansas, went further by also recently banning abortion as early as six and 12 weeks, respectively. Those more restrictive bans have been put on hold by courts. Courts have likewise blocked 20-week abortion bans in Arizona, Georgia and Idaho.

Albuquerque is home to two of the few facilities in the region that perform late-term abortions - the Southwestern Women's Options clinic and the University of New Mexico Center for Reproductive Health.

Their existence has led abortion foes to refer to Albuquerque as the "late-term abortion capital of the country" and to target the city for the municipal ban, said Elisa Martinez, executive director of the group Protect ABQ Women and Children, which supports the measure.

Julianna Koob, legislative advocate for Planned Parenthood of New Mexico, agreed that the two clinics had drawn patients from around the region because "access has been so severely impacted in other cities."

The state attorney general, Gary King, has called the proposed measure "unconstitutional and unenforceable."

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, a law professor at the University of New Mexico, said abortion regulations as allowed under Roe v. Wade were regarded as a matter for the states, not local governments, to decide.

Patrick Davis, a spokesman for ProgressNow New Mexico, a non-profit group that supports abortion rights, said approval of the measure in Albuquerque could lead to similar proposals showing up on local ballots in municipalities across the country.

"Using cities to further the culture wars is definitely something we can expect to see in the future," agreed Lonna Atkeson, director of the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections and Democracy at the University of New Mexico. "This is the first test case."

(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Steve Gorman, Peter Cooney, Andrew Hay and Lisa Shumaker)

Learjet crashes off Florida coast, two bodies found


(Reuters) - A private jet with perhaps four people aboard crashed into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after takeoff from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Tuesday, and two bodies have been recovered, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said.

The plane, a Learjet headed for the Mexican resort city of Cozumel, went down several miles east of Fort Lauderdale shortly after 8 p.m. (0100 GMT Wednesday), Lieutenant Commander Gabe Somma said.

"We have recovered two bodies along with the debris field," he said, adding that there was no immediate word on whether anyone had survived.

Mexico's Communications and Transport Ministry said in a statement that there were four people on board the plane - two pilots and two passengers.

Somma said the Coast Guard had received reports that four people were aboard the aircraft, but that he could not confirm the number.

"At this hour we are continuing to search with a number of local and state and federal search and rescue assets," Somma said.

Coast Guard aircraft and surface craft have been deployed to the scene, and the cause of the crash is under investigation, he said.

The Mexican ministry named the pilots as Jose Galvan de la O. and Josue Buendia and the two passengers as Fernando Senties and Mariana Gonzalez.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson, Eric M. Johnson, and Elinor Comlay; Editing by Steve Gorman and Mohammad Zargham)

First batch of Chinese aid arrives in typhoon-struck Philippines


MANILA (Reuters) - The first batch of Chinese relief supplies has arrived in the Philippines, Chinese state television said, days after Beijing drew criticism for not doing more to help victims of one of the world's biggest typhoons.

The Philippines and international armed forces and aid agencies are struggling to get help to devastated areas due to the extent of the destruction from Typhoon Haiyan, which has left more than 4,000 dead and 4 million people displaced.

A cargo plane carrying tents and blankets landed in the central Philippine city of Cebu on Tuesday, CCTV said.

"The Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development head has said the Chinese relief goods are very useful," Chinese embassy official Wu Zhenping told the station.

"They will distribute some goods to evacuated victims in Cebu and the rest to victims in the worst-hit area Tacloban."

Tension between China and the Philippines has risen in recent months over disputed claims in the South China Sea and Beijing's response to the disaster raised eyebrows.

China, with the world's second-largest economy, initially announced it was giving $200,000 and then raised that by $1.64 million. On Sunday, it said it was ready to send rescue and medical teams.

In contrast, the United States has mobilised about 50 ships and aircraft in the disaster zone with helicopters delivering supplies from an aircraft carrier. It has announced more than $37 million in humanitarian aid.

(Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Matt Driskill)


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