Egypt's Islamists win favorable constitution

Clerics gain power; minorities & women may lose protections

Posted: December 24, 2012

CAIRO - With the passage of a divisive constitution, Egypt's Islamist leadership has secured its tightest grip on power since Hosni Mubarak's ouster two years ago and laid the foundation for a more religious state.

The opposition's response - a vow to keep fighting the charter and the program of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi - means the turmoil of the past two years will not end as many, especially the tens of millions of poor craving stability, had fervently hoped.

Critics say the new constitution does not sufficiently protect the rights of women and minority groups and empowers Muslim clerics by giving them a say over legislation. Some articles were also seen as tailored to get rid of Islamists' enemies and undermine the freedom of labor unions.

SEAL from Pottstown dies in apparent suicide

WASHINGTON - U.S. military officials are investigating the apparent suicide of a Navy SEAL commander in Afghanistan.

A military official said SEAL Team Four member Cdr. Job W. Price, 42, of Pottstown, Pa., died Saturday of a noncombat injury that "appears to be the result of suicide." Troops from SEAL Team 4, which is based in Virginia Beach, Va., are part of the mission to train Afghan local police to stave off the Taliban in remote parts of Afghanistan.

Ho Ho Holy Discount: Vatican's dep't store

VATICAN CITY - Anyone left on your Christmas list just aching for a 65-inch Samsung 3D flat-screen television? You're in luck. The Vatican's duty-free department store has one on sale for $3,840 - a nifty savings over the $5,032 it costs at Italy's main electronics chain Euronics.

There's a little-known open secret in the Vatican gardens, a few paces behind St. Peter's Basilica and tucked inside the Vatican's old train station: a sprawling, three-story tax-free department store that rivals any airport duty-free or military PX, stocking everything from Church's custom grade shoes to Baume et Mercier watches.

There's a hitch, however. It's not open to the public, only to Vatican citizens, employees and their dependents, diplomats accredited to the Holy See and (unofficially) their lucky friends who, after stocking up on holiday must-haves, proceed to the checkout with their Vatican connection and the ID card that entitles them to shop there.

Syria keeps up killings despite peace envoy

BEIRUT - A government airstrike on a bakery in a rebel-held town in central Syria killed more than 60 people on Sunday, activists said, casting a pall over a visit by the international envoy charged with negotiating an end to the country's civil war.

The strike on the town of Halfaya left scattered bodies and debris up and down a street, and more than a dozen dead and wounded were trapped in tangled heap of dirt and rubble.

The attack appeared to be the government response to a newly announced rebel offensive seeking to drive the Syrian army from a constellation of towns and village north of the central city of Hama.

Argentine mistress be damned! Sanford's back

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who left public life two years ago after mysteriously disappearing to visit his then-mistress in Argentina, is poised to re-enter the political arena.

Acknowledging reports that he is seriously weighing a congressional bid for the seat he once held, Sanford wrote in an email late Saturday: "To answer your question, yes the accounts are accurate."

The two-term governor was a rising Republican political star before he vanished from South Carolina for five days in 2009. Reporters were told he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he later tearfully acknowledged he was visiting Maria Belen Chapur, a woman he called his soul mate at a news conference announcing his affair. The two were engaged earlier this year.

- Daily News wire services

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