SPOTLIGHT BRIEFS

Navy ship to be named after Giffords

Posted Feb. 10, 2012, at 11:27 p.m.
Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords attend a ceremony at the Pentagon on Friday, Feb. 10, 2012, for the unveiling of the USS Gabrielle Giffords.
Manuel Balce Ceneta | AP
Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords attend a ceremony at the Pentagon on Friday, Feb. 10, 2012, for the unveiling of the USS Gabrielle Giffords.

WASHINGTON — Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt one year ago, is getting a Navy vessel named in her honor.

The Navy said Friday that its newest littoral combat ship, a small, agile surface vessel, will be called the USS Gabrielle Giffords. The ship’s sponsor will be Roxanna Green, the mother of Christina-Taylor Green, 9, who was killed in the Tucson shooting that wounded Giffords in January 2011.

According to the Defense Department, the USS Gabrielle Giffords will be the 17th ship to be named for a woman and the 13th to be named after a living person.

The naming of Navy vessels is not always a simple affair. In April 2010, after the service unveiled plans for the USS John P. Murtha, critics lobbied Mabus to reconsider, citing the former congressman’s opposition to the Iraq war. This year, the Navy announced plans for the USNS Cesar Chavez, after the labor leader, drawing objections from conservatives.

Giffords attended the Friday event at which the Navy announced its plans. Hours earlier, she had joined President Barack Obama as he signed the last piece of legislation she had authored before her retirement, which grants law enforcement officials greater authority to combat illicit drug trafficking on the border.

“I’m confident that while this legislation may have been her last act as a congresswoman, it will not be her last act of public service,” he said in a statement.

Federal deficit dips in 1st quarter

WASHINGTON — The federal deficit was lower through the first four months of the budget year than the same period last year. Still, the deficit is expected to top $1 trillion for the fourth year in a row, putting more pressure on Congress and President Barack Obama in an election year.

The deficit totaled $349 billion through January, the Treasury Department said Friday. That’s $70 billion less than at the same point last year. January’s monthly deficit was $27 billion, roughly half of the deficit in January 2011.

The White House later confirmed a report that President Obama’s new budget predicts a $1.3 trillion deficit for the full fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1. The figures were first reported in The Wall St. Journal, which viewed leaked draft budget documents.

Pa. man’s Facebook ‘surfer’ page lured teens

PITTSBURGH — A married father used phony Facebook profiles to pose as two different Florida surfers to solicit sexually graphic messages and photos from seven teenage girls in western Pennsylvania, and two of the girls eventually agreed to meet for sex with the surfers’ middle-aged “friend” — yet another fake persona he used, the state attorney general said Friday.

William R. Ainsworth, 53, of Mars, was charged Thursday with 68 counts, including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and multiple counts of charges that include attempted unlawful contact with a minor, possession of child pornography and criminal use of a computer.

Ainsworth is already in jail in Butler County, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, after he was arrested on similar charges in September, when authorities say he traveled to the home of a 14-year-old girl for sex.

Authorities said the psychological manipulation included messages indicating that the first surfer was killed, so the girls would be more sympathetic and likely to comply with requests from the second “surfer,” who typically introduced the girls to a friend named “Glenn Keefer.” “Keefer” was essentially Ainsworth’s alter-ego, a 50-something man from Pennsylvania who would offer the girls money for pictures or sex so they could run away to join the surfers, investigators said.

The phony Facebook pages have been taken down, and the girls are not identified in the 68-page criminal complaint. The alleged victims were 13 to 15 years old, although one girl was 12 when the computer contacts began, Kelly said.

28 killed in bombings in Syrian city of Aleppo

ALEPPO, Syria — Two suicide car bombers struck security compounds in Aleppo on Friday, killing 28 people, Syrian officials said, bringing significant violence for the first time to an industrial center that has largely stood by President Bashar Assad during the 11-month uprising against his rule.

Anti-Assad activists denied involvement and accused the regime of setting off the blasts to smear the opposition as government forces pummel rebels in one of their main strongholds, Homs. State media touted the bombings as proof the regime faces a campaign by terrorists, not a popular uprising.

The military stepped up its siege of Homs, where hundreds have reportedly been killed over the past week. Satellite image provider DigitalGlobe Inc., based in Colorado, released photos Friday that it said show Syrian army tanks and other armored vehicles n ear apartment buildings in the city.

Troops and security forces opened fire on anti-regime protesters who streamed out of mosques after Friday prayers nationwide. At least 27 civilians were killed, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The morning blasts in Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city, ripped apart the facades of the local headquarters of the Military Intelligence Directorate and a barracks of the Security Preservation forces.

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