Proposed Assault Weapons Ban Would Exempt 2,200 Firearms

Washington (ap) — Congress’ latest crack at a new assault weapons ban would protect more than 2,200 specific firearms, including a semi-automatic rifle that is nearly identical to one of the guns used in the bloodiest shootout in FBI history.

One model of that firearm, the Ruger .223-caliber Mini-14, is on the proposed list to be banned, while a different model of the same gun is on a list of exempted firearms in legislation the Senate is considering. The gun that would be protected from the ban has fixed physical features and can’t be folded to be more compact. Yet the two firearms are equally deadly. Both models of the Ruger Mini-14 specified in the proposed bill can take detachable magazines that hold dozens of rounds of ammunition.

F-16 Escorts Cessna Away
From Restricted Florida Airspace

Los Angeles (lat) — A military jet and helicopter swooped alongside a small plane yesterday and escorted it away from a temporary restricted flight zone above Florida’s eastern coast, where President Obama was spending the holiday weekend with friends, officials said.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mike Humphreys said an F-16 jet and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter intercepted the plane just before noon and forced it to land a few minutes later at Witham Field in Stuart, Fla.

Federal Aviation Administration officials said in a statement that they’re investigating whether the Cessna 152 entered the restricted area above Florida’s Treasure Coast. No other information about the Cessna was immediately released. A description of temporary flight restrictions posted on the FAA’s website said the section of Florida airspace will be closed until tomorrow for “VIP Movement.”

Aboard Air Force One on Friday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest responded to a reporter’s question about the president’s “guy’s weekend” by confirming that Obama was looking forward to spending the Presidents Day holiday weekend with a group of friends in Florida.

6-Year-Old Girl Raped, Dumped
On Road in India’s Capital

New Delhi (dpa) — A 6-year-old girl was kidnapped, raped and dumped by a roadside in New Delhi, India, in the latest of a series of violent sexual attacks that have shocked the country, officials and news reports said yesterday.

The girl, from Delhi’s satellite city of Gurgaon, was spotted by a passerby in the border region of Kapashera late Sunday night. The crime became public knowledge only after local newspapers and news-channels reported it on Friday.

“Medical examinations have confirmed rape. The girl is recuperating in a hospital,” Om Prakash, a local police officer said. “We have launched a manhunt to arrest those responsible for the brutal act but have few leads as the girl is unable to give a proper statement since she is traumatized.”

The Times of India daily reported that the victim was last seen with a man in his early 20s and it was possible that she had been raped by more than one person.

Conclave on New Pope
Could Be Before March 15

Rome (dpa) — Conclave meetings between cardinals to elect a new pope could begin before March 15, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said yesterday, despite having previously dismissed suggestions the process could be speeded up.

Pope Benedict XVI has said he will officially step down on Feb. 28. The conclave normally meets 15 to 20 days after the papal seat has been vacated, allowing the cardinals enough time to travel to Rome from all over the world. But since Benedict is resigning — the first pope to do so in 600 years — rather than dying in office, the cardinals have more time to prepare, Lombardi said. Church rules could be interpreted so as to bring the conclave forward, he said. The Vatican had previously said there would be a new pope by Easter, which this year falls on March 31.

Deadly Bomb Blast Hits Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan (lat) — A bomb blast killed at least 65 people in the southwest city of Quetta yesterday in what appeared to be the latest episode of sectarian violence against the country’s beleaguered Shiite Muslim minority.

The explosion occurred near a market crowded with shoppers in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood, local and federal government officials said. Authorities believe the blast was caused by a remote-controlled bomb planted in a water tanker. Women and children were among the dead, police said, and at least 175 more people were injured, some of them critically.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Shiites angrily protested the bombing, burning tires on the street and hurling stones at passing police vehicles. Shiite leaders called on members of the sect to launch a strike in Quetta today. For years Sunni Muslim extremist groups have targeted Shiites in Pakistan.

Cayman Islands Woman Bites Intruder, Loses Tooth

George Town, Cayman Islands (ap) — Police in the Cayman Islands say a woman drove off an intruder by biting him. It cost her a tooth, though.

Police Chief Inspector Robert Scotland says the woman was home alone when she woke up to find a man standing over her bed. Scotland told The Associated Press on Friday that the woman bit the intruder when he put his hand over her mouth. He then fled.