National editor's pick of the top news stories in the nation and world at this hour:
Ethiopian strongman Meles Zenawi, a U.S. ally and partner in the war on terror with a spotty reputation on human rights, has died at the age of 57. Meles died in a Belgian hospital just before midnight Monday after contracting an infection, authorities said Tuesday. Hailemariam Desalegn, who was appointed deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs in 2010, is now acting prime minister and will be sworn in as prime minister after an emergency meeting of parliament, said Bereket Simon, the communications minister. Little change in Ethiopian policy is expected because the same party remains in power. Meles became president in 1991 after helping to oust Mengistu Haile Mariam's Communist government, and in 1995 he became prime minister, a post in which he was in charge of both the government and the armed forces. The U.S. has supported and worked closely with Meles as a partner in the war on terror, especially in neighborning Somalia. But Meles has long been criticized for his human rights record and antidemocratic leanings. Opponents accuse him of jailing and killing opposition members and of rigging elections; he won his last election in 2010 with a reported 99 percent of the vote.
Rep. Todd Akin, facing universal condemnation for saying that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant, apologized in a video message Tuesday and vowed to stay in the Missouri Senate race. A deadline loomed at 5 p.m. local time in which he could drop out of the race without needing a court order to remove his name from the ballot. In interviews with Mike Huckabee and Sean Hannity, Akin apologized repeatedly and acknowledged that rape can lead to pregnancy. "Rape is never legitimate," he said. "It's an evil act. It's committed by violent predators. I used the wrong words the wrong way." In a YouTube video posted Tuesday, he said: "Fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is rape has many victims. The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness." Akin failed to show for a scheduled appearance on Piers Morgan's CNN show Monday night, prompting Morgan to call him a "gutless little twerp."
Repeatedly stung by jellyfish, her face red and her lips swollen, endurance swimmer Diana Nyad on Tuesday ended her fourth attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. Nyad, who turns 63 on Wednesday, was pulled from the water at 12:55 a.m. during a thunderstorm. Crew member Candace Hogan wrote in her blog that Nyad angrily shook her head after being pulled from the water and planned to return to finish the swim after the storm subsided. But eventually, Hogan said, "she realized that the obstacles against this swim were too great and agreed at dawn to return to Key West by boat." Another team member, Vanessa Linsley, said Nyad faced three threats that proved insurmountable. "Instead of getting hit with one doozy they got hit with three," Linsley said.
The Syrian army overran a rebel-held town outside Damascus on Tuesday, killing dozens of people including 23 rebels, and a Japanese journalist was killed while covering the fighting in Aleppo. Mika Yamamoto, 45, a war correspondent for the Japan Press TV news provider, was hit by gunfire Monday while traveling with rebels, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said. On Tuesday outside Damascus in the rebel-held village of Moadamiyeh, government troops stormed into town from four points at dawn, raiding homes in search of rebels, activists said. Rebels said 23 Free Syrian Army fighters were among dozens of bodies dumped in the town, many of them killed execution-style. The town's capture followed days of intense fighting and shelling.
Incoming college freshmen who are the same age as Justin Bieber and Dakota Fanning have always lived in cyberspace, have never seen an airplane "ticket," can't imagine luggage that isn't on wheels and watch television everywhere but on a television. Those are some of the 75 items on the annual "Mindset List" compiled by Benoit College of Beloit, Wis., a snapshot of how the freshman class views the world differently from older generations. Some other excerpts about the Class of 2016: 3. The Biblical sources of terms such as "forbidden fruit," "the writing on the wall," "good Samaritan," and "the promised land" are unknown to most of them. 4. Michael Jackson's family, not the Kennedys, constitutes "American royalty." 5. If they miss "The Daily Show," they can always get their news on YouTube. 6. Their lives have been measured in the fundamental particles of life: bits, bytes, and bauds. 7. Robert De Niro is thought of as Greg Focker's long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway.
The Wire, a summary of top national and world news stories from the Associated Press and other wire services, moves weekdays. Contact Karl Kahler at 408-920-5023, or follow him at twitter.com/karl_kahler.