In Brief | Nation & World 6-23-13


Thousands protest anew in Brazil, but crowds smaller after presidential address

SAO PAULO — Tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators again took to streets in several Brazilian cities Saturday after the president broke a long silence to promise reforms, but the early protests were smaller and less violent than those of recent days.

Police estimated that about 60,000 demonstrators gathered in a central square in the city of Belo Horizonte, largely to denounce legislation that would limit the power of federal prosecutors to investigate crimes in a country where many are fed up with the high rate of robberies and killings. Many fear the law would also hinder attempts to jail corrupt politicians and other powerful figures.

President Dilma Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who was tortured during Brazil’s military dictatorship, made a televised 10-minute appearance on Friday night backing the right to peaceful protest but sharply condemning violence, vandalism and looting.

She promised to be tougher on corruption and said she would meet with peaceful protesters, governors and the mayors of big cities to create a national plan to improve urban transportation and use oil royalties for education.

Southwest computer glitch grounds planes

CHICAGO — Southwest Airlines was operating normally Saturday afternoon after a system-wide computer failure caused it to ground 250 flights for nearly three hours late Friday night.

Full service was restored just after 2 a.m. Saturday, but the Dallas-based airline experienced lingering delays in the morning as it worked to clear a backlog of flights and reposition planes and crew.

The airline — the country’s largest domestic carrier — canceled 43 flights Friday night and another 14 Saturday morning.

60-square-mile Colo. wildfire slows

DEL NORTE, Colo. — A massive wildfire threatening a tourist region in southwestern Colorado has grown to nearly 60 square miles, but officials said Saturday that the erratic blaze had slowed and they were optimistic they could protect the town of South Fork.

The fire’s rapid advance prompted the evacuation of hundreds of summer visitors and the town’s 400 permanent residents Friday, and it could be days before people are allowed back into their homes, cabins and RV parks, fire crew spokeswoman Laura McConnell said. South Fork Mayor Kenneth Brooke estimated that 1,000 to 1,500 people were forced to flee.

Some business owners were being allowed back into South Fork during the day Saturday to tie up issues left unattended in the rush to leave.

No structures have been lost and the fire was still about 5 miles from the town.

FAA could ease restrictions on use of electronic devices

WASHINGTON — Relief may be on the way for airline passengers who can’t bear to be separated even briefly from their personal electronic devices. The government is moving toward allowing gate-to-gate use of music players, tablets, laptops, smartphones and other gadgets, although it may take a few months.

Restrictions on cellphone calls and Internet use and transmission are not expected to be changed.

An industry-labor advisory committee was supposed to make recommendations next month to the Federal Aviation Administration on easing restrictions on using electronic devices during takeoffs and landings. But the agency said in a statement Friday the deadline has been extended to September because committee members asked for extra time to finish assessing whether it’s safe to lift restrictions.

The agency is under public and political pressure to ease the restrictions as more people bring their devices with them when they fly in order to read e-books, listen to music, watch videos, and get work done.

Police use water cannon to disperse Turkey protests

ISTANBUL — Turkish police used a water cannon to disperse thousands gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Saturday to observe a memorial for four people killed during recent anti-government protests. The officers later fired tear gas and rubber bullets, and in some cases beat people with batons, to scatter demonstrators who regrouped in side streets.

The police move came as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that foreign-led conspirators he alleges are behind the anti-government movement in his country also are fomenting the recent unrest in Brazil.

The protests in Turkey erupted three weeks ago after riot police brutally cracked down on peaceful environmental activists who opposed plans to develop Gezi Park, which lies next to Taksim. The demonstrations soon turned into expressions of discontent with what critics say is Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian and meddlesome ways.

Erdogan, who took power a decade ago, denies he is authoritarian and, as evidence of his popularity, points to elections in 2011 that returned his party to power with 50 percent of the vote and gave him a third term in office.

On Saturday, demonstrators converged in Taksim, where they laid down carnations in remembrance of at least three protesters and a police officer killed in the rallies. For about two hours, protesters shouted anti-government slogans and demanded that Erdogan resign before police warned them to leave the square.

Medtronic insulin

pump shows progress

Doctors are reporting a major step toward an “artificial pancreas,” a device that would constantly monitor blood sugar in people with diabetes and automatically supply insulin as needed.

A key component of such a system — an insulin pump programmed to shut down if blood-sugar dips too low while people are sleeping — worked as intended in a three-month study of 247 patients.

This “smart pump,” made by Minneapolis-based Medtronic Inc., is already sold in Europe, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing it now. Whether it also can be programmed to mimic a real pancreas and constantly adjust insulin based on continuous readings from a blood-sugar monitor requires more testing, but doctors say the new study suggests that’s a realistic goal.

“This is the first step in the development of the artificial pancreas,” said Dr. Richard Bergenstal, diabetes chief at Park Nicollet, a large clinic in St. Louis Park, Minn. “Before we said it’s a dream. We have the first part of it now and I really think it will be developed.”

He led the company-sponsored study and gave results Saturday at an American Diabetes Association conference in Chicago. They also were published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Judge: No audio testimony in Zimmerman trial

SANFORD, Fla. — The judge in the murder trial of George Zimmerman said Saturday that prosecution audio experts who point to Trayvon Martin as screaming on a 911 call moments before he was killed won’t be allowed to testify at trial.

Judge Debra Nelson reached her decision after hearing arguments that stretched over several days this month on whether to allow testimony from two prosecution experts. One expert ruled out Zimmerman as the screamer and another said it was Martin. Defense experts argued there was not enough audio to determine who the screams are coming from. Zimmerman’s attorneys also argued that the state experts’ analysis is flawed.

Nelson ruled that the methods used by the experts aren’t reliable to be used in the trial. But her ruling doesn’t prevent the 911 calls from being played at trial.

By wire sources