Saturday, May 23
UPDATE: Both sides say Ireland has voted to legalize gay marriage
DUBLIN (AP) — Leaders on both sides of Ireland's gay marriage campaign say advocates of legalization have won a resounding victory with the ballot count still underway.
Senior figures from the "no" campaign, who sought to prevent Ireland's constitution from being amended to permit gay marriage, say the only question Saturday is how large the "yes" side's margin of victory will be from Friday's vote.
An Irish Cabinet minister, Leo Varadkar, who came out as gay at the start of the government's campaign, says Dublin looks to have voted about 70 percent in favor of gay marriage, while most districts outside the capital also were reporting strong "yes" leads. Official results come later Saturday.
Varadkar said: "We're the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world of liberty and equality. It's a very proud day to be Irish."
NEW: Syrian official: Islamic State militants in Palmyra's museum
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A Syrian official in charge of antiquities says Islamic State fighters have broken into the museum of the ancient town of Palmyra which they have captured days earlier, but have not harmed its contents.
The head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus, told The Associated Press today that militants entered the museum in the town's center Friday afternoon, locked the doors and left behind their own guards.
The group captured Palmyra in the central province of Homs on Wednesday, raising concerns around the world they would destroy priceless, 2,000-year-old archaeological sites located in the town's south.
Experts suspect the group will loot the sites, selling the artifacts on the black market.
The city's museum and artifacts have been damaged and looted during Syria's four-year civil war.
Deadline near, Senate faces last-minute vote on Patriot Act
WASHINGTON (AP) — Unable to end a struggle over how to deal with government surveillance programs, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled a last-minute session to consider retaining the National Security Agency's bulk collection of domestic phone records.
McConnell is warning against allowing the controversial NSA program and other key surveillance activities under the USA Patriot Act to expire at midnight May 31. He is calling the Senate into session that day, a Sunday, and seeking action before the deadline.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul is taking a different view. The presidential candidate calls the Senate's failure to allow an extension of the surveillance programs during a late-night session a victory for privacy rights.
Government officials say they will lose valuable surveillance tools if the surveillance programs expire.
Congress' familiar path: short-term solutions
WASHINGTON (AP) — When senators left town after approving a brief extension of the nation's highway and transit aid, they were following a well-worn path. If a program is about to expire and the two sides are stymied over what to do, lawmakers often keep the program alive temporarily and revisits the problem later.
Records show that the two-month rescue of the highway trust fund is Congress' 33nd short-term patch of that program since 2008. And that lawmakers have approved another 101 measures temporarily keeping federal agencies open since it last completed all its spending bills on time in 1997.
Lawmakers have also used short extensions to address expiring tax breaks, avoid federal defaults and keep agriculture and other programs from grinding to a halt, frustrating government agencies craving stability.
Myanmar president signs off on controversial population law
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar's president has signed off on a controversial law requiring some mothers to space their children three years apart. Critics warn it could be used to repress not only women, but religious and ethnic minorities.
The Population Control Health Care Bill — drafted under pressure from hard-line Buddhist monks with a staunchly anti-Muslim agenda — was passed by parliamentarians last month.
It is part of a package of four laws that the U.S. and others have said could fan the flames of intolerance in Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 50 million that is already grappling with sectarian violence.
The law gives regional authorities the power to implement birth-spacing guidelines in areas with high population growth rates.
Report: German woman, 65, gives birth to quadruplets
BERLIN (AP) — German media report that a 65-year-old teacher from Berlin has given birth to quadruplets.
Television station RTL says the three boys and a girl were born by cesarean section at a Berlin hospital Tuesday.
RTL said in a statement that the four newborns stood a strong chance of survival but possible complications couldn't yet be ruled out, because they were born in the 26th week of pregnancy.
The mother, Annegret Raunigk, already had 13 children before deciding to travel abroad to have donated, fertilized eggs implanted.
Her decision prompted criticism from doctors, who questioned whether her body would be physically capable of bearing the children.
RTL spokeswoman Heike Speda told German news agency dpa that the mother was "doing well, under the circumstances."
Senate approves Obama's hard-fought trade negotiating bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-led Senate has handed President Barack Obama a major victory by approving his request for enhanced trade negotiating authority.
The bill now faces a tough battle in the House.
The Senate voted 62-37 Friday to endorse Obama's request for "fast track" negotiating authority. It would let him present trade agreements that Congress can ratify or reject, but not change.
Obama says fast track would improve chances for a long-negotiated trade deal with 11 other Pacific Rim nations.
Labor unions and many liberals oppose the bill. They say free-trade deals send U.S. jobs overseas.
Obama lobbied hard on trade. He phoned numerous senators, and repeatedly sent top aides to talk with lawmakers. He says U.S. products must reach more foreign markets.
Most Senate Democrats opposed the bill.
ARCTIC DRILLING PROTESTS
Woman chains herself to Shell ship in bay north of Seattle
BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Police in Washington State say they'll take no action for now against a woman who has chained herself to the Arctic Challenger, a support ship for Royal Dutch Shell's exploratory oil drilling plans.
Bellingham police say officers talked to the ship, the port and the woman. The ship isn't due to leave for several days.
KCPQ-TV said the ship is anchored in Bellingham Bay, north of Seattle.
Earlier, an official with Washington state's Department of Natural Resources said activists protesting Shell's plans for exploratory drilling in the Arctic did some damage to a Seattle dive park.
KIRO Radio reports that DNR spokesman Joe Smillie said divers found cement blocks, cables and chains that were used to anchor a protest barge while kayakers protested last weekend near a Shell oil rig docked in Seattle's Elliott Bay.
He said damage was minimal and no one will be fined. But the protesters will have to pay for the cleanup.
UN chief says save migrants, deal with cause of flight
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging Southeast Asian nations to deal with the causes behind a growing humanitarian crisis involving migrants.
Thousands of Rohingya (ROH'-hin-GAH') from Myanmar and Bangladeshi migrants have fled by sea, leaving many still stranded in boats. Ban says he's urging regional leaders in Myanmar, Malaysia and Thailand to provide search and rescue operations and options for resettlement and reintegration.
More than 3,600 migrants — about half of them Bangladeshi and the others minority Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar — have landed ashore in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand since May 10. Thousands more are believed to be trapped at sea, and the United Nations has warned that time is running out.
Four Malaysian navy ships began searching for boats Friday, according to navy chief Abdul Aziz Jaafar, who said three helicopters and three other ships were on standby.
DC MANSION FIRE-SLAYINGS
Ex-con who worked for rich family arrested in their deaths
WASHINGTON (AP) — Authorities believe more than one person is responsible for the slayings of four people inside the mansion of a wealthy Washington family and say more search warrants are likely in coming days.
A court document made public Friday after the arrest on a murder warrant of Daron Dylon Wint says authorities believe "the crimes required the presence and assistance of more than one person."
A fugitive task force arrested Wint on Thursday night, and took five people who were with him into custody. Wint is the only person currently charged and he's being held without bail.
The document also confirms that thousands of dollars were delivered to the mansion of business executive Savvas Savopoulos before it was set on fire. Firefighters found the bodies of Savopolous, his wife Amy, their 10-year-old son, Philip; and housekeeper Veralicia Figueroa inside. Three of them had been stabbed or bludgeoned.
Japan pledges climate change aid to Pacific island nations
TOKYO (AP) — Japan is giving 55 billion yen ($450 million) in climate change and disaster aid to Pacific island nations, an effort to beef up its profile in the region.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the pledge at a meeting with Pacific island nations in Iwaki in northern Japan on Saturday.
The assistance will be doled out over three years to help fight climate change and natural disasters. Japan will also help with expert exchanges and training.
The island nations include Fiji, the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands and others dotting the Pacific Ocean, some of which are threatened with rising sea levels.