National editor's pick of the top news stories in the nation and world at this hour:
Jared Lee Loughner, who killed six people in the shooting rampage that ended the career of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Giffords was present for the sentencing of the man who shot her in the head, and her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, spoke on her behalf. "Mr. Loughner, you may have put a bullet through her head but you haven't put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place," he said. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns sentenced Loughner, 24, to life without parole for the January 2011 attack under a federal plea deal that spared him the death sentence. Loughner, who has been diagnosed as schizophrenic but has been forcibly medicated, pleaded guilty three months ago to 19 federal charges. Another victim, Susan Hileman, stared at Loughner as she said, "You pointed a weapon and shot me three times. And now I walk out of this courtroom and into the rest of my life and I won't think of you again."
With that whole election thing behind them, the president and congressional leaders are now turning to the issue of how to keep the country from destroying its own economy by going off a fiscal cliff. House Speaker John Boehner says Republicans are willing to consider a solution that involves higher taxes, and Obama adviser David Axelrod says they'd better. On MSNBC Thursday morning, Axelrod noted that President Barack Obama campaigned on a repeated promise to make the wealthy pay more, "and was re-elected in a significant way." He said, "Hopefully people will read those results and read them as a
Damage from superstorm Sandy in New York alone could reach $33 billion, Gov. Mario Cuomo said Thursday as the state cleaned up from a new storm that knocked out power to 200,000 customers. The nor'easter that hit New York and New Jersey on Wednesday failed to create major new flooding, as feared, though it dumped 3 to 6 inches of snow from Connecticut to Rhode Island. The damage from Sandy was previously estimated at $30 billion to $50 billion from the Carolinas to Maine, but Cuomo's estimate would push that bill higher. Total damages of $50 billion would make Sandy the second costliest storm in U.S. history, after Hurricane Katrina. Sandy inundated New York City and New Jersey with a storm
Syrian President Bashar Assad vowed Thursday that he would "live and die in Syria" -- an eerie echo of similar statements by other tyrants toppled in the Arab Spring, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Moammar Gadhafi of Libya. "I am not a puppet, I was not made by the West for me to go to the West or any other country," said Assad, 47, responding to a suggestion by British Prime Minister David Cameron that he could be given safe passage out of the country if it would end the civil war there. "I am Syrian, I am made in Syria, and I will live and die in Syria," he said in English on the English-language Russia Today TV. Assad also warned against foreign intervention in his country's conflict. "I don't think the West is headed in this direction. But if it does, nobody can predict the consequences," he said.
You might want to get your order in now for Breast Milk Baby, a doll that makes suckling sounds prompted by sensors sewn into a halter top that little girls wear over their nipples. No less an authority on child development than Fox News' Bill O'Reilly has weighed in on this alleged abomination, saying, "I just want the kids to be kids. ... We don't need this." Such reactions are puzzling to Dennis Lewis, the U.S. representative for the Spanish Berjuan Toys company, which can't get many American stores to sell the dolls. "We've had a lot of support from lots of breast-feeding organizations, lots of mothers, lots of educators," said Lewis. But he said there's also been "blowback" from "people that either have problems with breast-feeding in general, or they see it as something sexual." The dolls, of which there are eight with a variety of skin tones and facial features, make a suckling noise when their mouths make contact with petal appliqués on the halter top worn by the "mommy." Some critics cite an unspecified yuck factor or say the doll is too mature for children, but some breast-feeding advocates and child development experts think it's a great idea, pointing out that kids pretend to breast-feed their baby dolls anyway.
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; follow him at twitter.com/karl_kahler.