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May 5, 2012 at 8:42 AM   |   Comments

Obama: Vets' treatment 'defining issue'

WASHINGTON, May 5 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday treatment of military veterans "is the defining issue of our time" and will require "making responsible choices."

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama reminded listeners of his trip to Afghanistan this week and said while the "enormous sacrifices of our men and women in uniform are not over," many troops are or will soon be coming home. He said "after more than a decade of war, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home."

"As a new greatest generation returns from overseas, we must ask ourselves, what kind of country will they come back to? Will it be a country where a shrinking number of Americans do really well while a growing number barely get by? Or will it be a country where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules -- a country with opportunity worthy of the troops who protect us?"

Obama recounted the benefits of the GI Bill and the nation's history of turning out an educated workforce -- which he called "a story of success that every American had the chance to share in, the basic American promise that if you work hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement."

"Keeping that promise alive is the defining issue of our time," the president said. "But it means making responsible choices.

"I don't think we should prioritize things like more tax cuts for millionaires while cutting the kinds of investments that built a strong middle class," he said.

"That's why I've called on Congress to take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the other half to rebuild America," Obama said.

"Because we've got more jobs to create. More students to educate. More clean energy to generate. More entrepreneurs with the next great idea, just looking for their shot at success. We've got to invest in things like education and medical research. We've got to build newer, faster transportation and communication networks. And we've got to secure the care and benefits our veterans have earned, so that we serve them as well as they have served us."


Assad's support in Aleppo at risk

DAMASCUS, Syria, May 5 (UPI) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad appears at risk of losing a base of support in Aleppo after government forces opened fire on protesters there, observers said.

Activists said four people -- a couple and their young child and a 16-year-old -- were killed Friday in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, The New York Times reported.

The protesters in Aleppo were demonstrating against the closing Thursday of the 60,000-student Aleppo University by security forces.

At least four students were killed in the violent closing, including one who was allegedly thrown from the window of a high-rise dormitory.

Syrian President Bashar Assad had continued to receive support in Aleppo while losing support in other cities, the Times said.

The firing on civilians in Aleppo violated the cease-fire brokered by the United Nations and the Arab League and showed Assad does not plan to abide by the cease-fire plan, analysts said.

"This proves that [the Assad regime is] not about to allow that kind of assembly in the future," said Andrew J. Tabler, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and an expert on Syria. The Assad government, he said, viewed Aleppo to be "one of the trigger cities. They're very scared about Aleppo. That's a real weakness for them."

The Times said the number of daily deaths appears to have declined since the cease-fire took effect in mid-April.

The United Nations has about 50 cease-fire monitors in Syria and plans to send up to 300 by the end of the year.

The cease-fire will take time to take hold, Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for Kofi Annan, the special envoy who negotiated the plan, said Friday.

"The Annan plan is on track, and a crisis that has been going on for over a year is not going to be resolved in a day or a week," he said.


Mohammed, 4 others to be arraigned

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, May 5 (UPI) -- A dozen family members of people who died in the Sept. 11 terror attacks are in Cuba to witness the arraignment of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, U.S. officials said.

Mohammed and four others charged in the attacks are to be arraigned Saturday at a U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Family members of some of the victims was flown to Cuba under military escort, the Defense Department said Friday.

Mohammed, the confessed mastermind behind the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, and four alleged co-conspirators are to appear before a military commission. They are accused of planning and executing the Sept 11, 2001, attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., resulting in the deaths of 2,976 people.

The defendants will hear charges against them and have a chance to enter a plea.

Mohammed and the other four defendants are charged with terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury and destruction of property in violation of the law of war.

If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to death.


Boris Johnson wins in London

LONDON, May 5 (UPI) -- Boris Johnson won a second term Friday as mayor of London, defeating former Mayor Ken Livingstone by 3 percentage points.

The count from Thursday's voting was a lengthy process because the second choices of voters who chose one of the five other candidates had to be factored in, and some paper ballots that were inadvertently put into storage without being counted had to be dug up, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Johnson's victory, while narrow, was one of the few for the Conservative Party in local elections. The Labor Party picked up about 800 local council seats.

Livingstone, nicknamed "Red Ken," said he is leaving politics. He predicted Johnson will be the next Conservative Party leader.

The election was a humiliation for the Liberal Democrats, allied with the Conservatives in government. The party's local representation is at its lowest point ever and it ran behind the Green Party in the London mayoral contest.

Some Conservatives suggested Prime Minister David Cameron should make a right turn, The Independent reported. Eleanor Laing, who represents Epping Forest north of London, said the prime minister should pay attention to "Conservative MPs who represent the real people of this country" and not to "Liberal Democratic intellectual urban elite with the student politics ideas of reforming the constitution and taking forward green policies."

Among smaller parties, the election was a disaster for the British National Party, which lost all six council seats it was defending. Lady Sayeeda Warsi, the Conservative co-chair, suggested that the Euro-skeptic United Kingdom Independence Party or Ukip, has replaced the BNP on the extremist right.

The local elections are usually seen as a test of how well parties will do in the next general election. But Conservative leaders pointed out that Labor, under Prime Minister Tony Blair was crushed in local elections in the late 1990s, only to smash the Conservatives in the 2001 general election.

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