National briefs

  • Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 12:42 a.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, February 28, 2013 12:44 a.m.
President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio applaud Wednesday at the unveiling of a statue of Rosa Parks on Capitol Hill in Washington.
President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio applaud Wednesday at the unveiling of a statue of Rosa Parks on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Obama unveils Rosa Parks statue

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s most powerful politicians honored Rosa Parks on Wednesday by unveiling her statue in a permanent place in the U.S. Capitol. President Barack Obama praised Parks as an enduring reminder of what true leadership requires, “no matter how humble or lofty our positions.”


Parks became the first black woman to be depicted in a full-length statue in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. A bust of another black woman, abolitionist Sojourner Truth, sits in the Capitol Visitors Center.

“We do well by placing a statue of her here,” Obama said. “But we can do no greater honor to her memory than to carry forward the power of her principle and a courage born of conviction.”

The unveiling brought Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and other congressional leaders together in the midst of a fierce standoff over automatic spending cuts set to go into effect on Friday.

Setting that conflict aside, Obama and Boehner stood on either side of a blue drape, tugging and pulling in opposite directions on a braided cord until the cover fell to reveal a 2,700-pound bronze statue of a seated Parks, her hair in a bun under a hat, her hands crossed over her lap and clasping her purse. Obama gazed up at it, and touched its arm.

Pope recalls moments of ‘joy and light’ but also difficulties in emotional final audience

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI bid an emotional farewell Wednesday on the eve of his retirement, recalling moments of “joy and light” during his papacy, but also times of difficulty when “it seemed like the Lord was sleeping.”

Some 150,000 people, many waving banners proclaiming “Grazie!” flooded St. Peter’s Square, eager to bear witness to the final hours of a papacy that will go down in history as the first in 600 years to end in resignation rather than death.

Benedict basked in the emotional send-off, taking a long victory lap around the square in an open-sided car, and stopping to kiss and bless half a dozen babies. Seventy cardinals, some tearful, sat in solemn attendance and gave him a standing ovation at the end of his speech.

Benedict then made a quick exit, forgoing the meet-and-greet session that typically follows his weekly general audience, as if to not prolong the goodbye.

Given the weight of the moment, Benedict also replaced his usual Wednesday catechism lesson with a heartfelt final address, explaining once again why he was retiring and assuring his flock of 1.2 billion that he was not abandoning them.

Father of Newtown victim asks Senate committee to ban assault weapons

WASHINGTON (AP) — After weeks of arguing constitutional fine points and citing rival statistics, senators wrangling over gun control saw and heard the anguish of a bereft father.

Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse, was among those cut down at a Connecticut elementary school in December, asked the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to ban assault weapons like the one that killed his child.

“I’m not here for the sympathy or the pat on the back,” Heslin, a 50-year-old construction worker, told the senators, weeping openly during much of his hushed 11-minute testimony. “I’m here to speak up for my son.”

At his side were photos: of his son as a baby, of them both taken on Father’s Day, six months before Jesse was among 20 first-graders and six administrators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. That massacre has hoisted gun control to a primary political issue this year, though the outcome remains uncertain.

The hearing’s focus was legislation by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines carrying more than 10 rounds. A Bushmaster assault weapon was used at Newtown by the attacker, Adam Lanza, whose body was found with 30-round magazines.

Tumbleweeds invade West Texas home

MIDLAND, Texas (AP) — A brutal storm system that brought 19 inches of snow to some areas of West Texas has delivered something entirely different to one homeowner.

Winds in excess of 60 mph that accompanied Monday’s blizzard pushed hundreds of tumbleweeds against a Midland home.

KWES-TV of Odessa and Midland reports one side of Josh Pitman’s home is obscured by tumbleweeds stacked one atop the other, blocking some doorways.

Pitman says he recently tore down a fence that would have protected his home from the rambling weeds. He says it’s the “most ridiculous thing” he’s ever seen.

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