4.17 World briefly


Senate plans votes today on expanding background checks

WASHINGTON — The Senate set a long-awaited vote for Wednesday on a bipartisan plan for expanding background checks to more firearms buyers, with supporters facing a steeply uphill path to victory.

By scheduling the roll call, Senate leaders ensured a showdown over the cornerstone of an effort by gun control supporters to tighten firearms laws following December’s killings of 20 students and six aides at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

The Senate planned to vote on eight other amendments as well to a Democratic gun control bill that besides expanding background checks, would tighten laws against gun trafficking and boost school safety aid.

They included Democratic proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, which are expected to lose; a Republican proposal requiring states to honor other states’ permits allowing concealed weapons, which faces a close vote; and a broad GOP substitute for the overall gun measure.

The focus of both sides has been on a compromise by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., broadening background checks. It will be the first amendment voted on Wednesday. Despite appearances at the Capitol on Wednesday by wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, proponents seem to face enough potential opponents to derail their endeavor unless they can figure out how to win more votes.

American Airlines grounds all US flights for several hours

DALLAS — A computer system used to run many daily operations at American Airlines failed Tuesday, forcing the nation’s third-largest carrier to ground all flights across the United States for several hours and stranding thousands of frustrated passengers at airports and on planes.

Flights already in the air were allowed to continue to their destinations, but planes on the ground from coast to coast could not take off. And travelers could do little to get back in the air until the computer system was restored.

American blamed its reservation system, which is used for much more than booking flights. Airlines commonly rely on such systems to track passengers and bags, update flight schedules and gate assignments and file flight plants. The computers also help determine how much fuel to put in an aircraft or which seats should be filled to balance a plane.

The failure caused cascading delays nationwide.

As of mid-afternoon, American and its American Eagle offshoot canceled more than 700 flights, and another 765 flights were delayed, according to tracking service FlightAware.

Chavez successor accuses US of fomenting violence

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s president-elect blamed the opposition Tuesday for seven deaths and 61 injuries that the government claims have occurred in disturbances protesting his election, and he accused the U.S. of organizing the unrest.

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles later accused the government of being behind the violence.

Maduro’s accusation against Washington came after the U.S. State Department said it would not recognize the results of Sunday’s unexpectedly close election without the vote-by-vote recount being demanded by Capriles.

“The (U.S.) embassy has financed and led all these violent acts,” President-elect Nicolas Maduro, the chosen heir of the late Hugo Chavez, said during a televised meeting at the headquarters of the state oil company.

Earlier, he said he would not allow an opposition protest march called for Wednesday in Caracas, saying Capriles was “responsible for the dead we are mourning” from violence during protests across the country.

By wire sources