ATLANTA (AP) — The children of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. are trying to settle a lawsuit over their father's traveling Bible and Nobel Peace Prize without going to trial, according to a judge's order.
King's estate, controlled by his sons, last year asked a judge to order King's daughter to surrender the items. In a board of directors meeting last January, Martin Luther King III and Dexter had voted 2-1 against the Rev. Bernice King to sell the artifacts.
The case, considered by many to be the ugliest in a string of legal disputes that have divided the slain civil rights icon's children in recent years, was set to go to trial next month. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney on Wednesday temporarily halted all action in the case at the parties' request to allow them time to settle the matter. A hearing will be held March 25 if a settlement hasn't been reached, McBurney wrote in his order.
The stay of proceedings in the case comes on the heels of the dismissal last week of another lawsuit that effectively pitted the two brothers against their sister. The Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc. on Jan. 22 voluntarily dismissed a lawsuit it had filed in August 2013 against the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Dexter Scott King is president and CEO of the estate and Martin Luther King III is chairman of the board. Their sister, the Rev. Bernice King, is CEO of the King Center.
That suit centered on a licensing agreement between the estate and the King Center for the use of King's name, likeness, works and memorabilia. The estate claimed the King Center had violated that agreement and was storing King artifacts in unsafe and unsecure conditions.
When that lawsuit was dismissed, Dexter had said in an emailed statement that it was a show of good faith as he and his siblings worked to resolve the issues dividing them.
"None of us want to see the legacy of my parents, or our dysfunction, out on public display," Dexter said in the statement.
NEW YORK (AP) — They were hanging on his every word — and gesture, body movement, and definitely the facial expressions.
Jonathan Lamberton, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's sign language interpreter, is getting a blizzard of attention for his highly animated ways that were on full display during recent weather briefings.
Standing a short distance away as de Blasio delivered serious warnings about impending snow, Lamberton, a certified deaf interpreter, was a whirlwind of movement — big gestures, incorporating his whole body, along with a variety of facial movements.
It was enough to get the 38-year-old man a whole lot of buzz — on social media, websites, even on the "Daily Show," where host Jon Stewart crowned him "Best Silent Mayoral Hype Man" and said, "That is some New York sign language."
It's actually American Sign Language, but the way Lamberton speaks it makes the difference. Born deaf to deaf parents, he grew up communicating in ASL, essentially making it his native tongue. So when he signs, it's with the full range of expressiveness deaf people use with each other, he said Wednesday in an online chat with The Associated Press.
"I think ASL has typically been depicted to the public in the 'nicer' form that hearing people are able to use, and that deaf people typically use with hearing people," Lamberton said. "The ASL that deaf people use among each other hasn't been seen on screen much so I think that's part of the reason people reacted so strongly."
Lamberton said the way he signs is more accessible to a wider swath of deaf people. The freelance interpreter first worked with the city a few months ago when Ebola was being discussed. He works with a hearing partner who translates what is being said into ASL, which Lamberton then puts into a form that's broadly understandable. At some of the recent mayoral briefings, that partner happened to be his wife.
He hasn't been following the media commentary about him too much, he said, and has been focused on doing his job, but said he appreciated the opportunity to inform the wider hearing world more fully about ASL.
"A lot of people seem to be enjoying my work and while that's well and nice, I'm not there for their entertainment or to steal anyone's show, I'm there to communicate critical information to the deaf community," he said. "But people are seeing how beautiful ASL can be, and I'm happy about that."
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will ask Congress to boost government spending by roughly 7 percent above current limits, the White House said Thursday, setting up a certain clash with Republicans who insist that federal spending must be held in check.
Obama's budget, to be formally released Monday, will call for $74 billion more than the levels frozen in place by across-the-board cuts agreed to by both Democrats and Republicans and signed by Obama into law. The White House said his new budget proposals will "fully reverse" the so-called sequestration cuts by increasing spending on both the domestic and military sides by similar amounts.
Under Obama's proposal, national security programs would see an increase of $38 billion over current spending limits, raising the defense budget to $561 billion. On the domestic side, Obama is calling for $530 billion in spending — an increase of $37 billion.
"If Congress rejects my plan and refuses to undo these arbitrary cuts, it will threaten our economy and our military," Obama warned in an op-ed article Thursday in The Huffington Post.
The proposal from the president, two months after voters booted his party from control of the Senate, reflects the White House's newfound confidence in the economy. Obama's aides believe that improving conditions give Obama credibility to push his spending priorities unabashedly — despite the fact that Republicans still believe government spends far too much.
Federal deficits, gas prices and unemployment are all falling, while Obama's poll numbers have crept upward. The president has been newly combative as he argues it's time to ease the harsh measures that were taken to help pull the economy out of recession.
Obama was to promote his proposed spending levels to House Democrats at their annual retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday evening. The White House said his budget will be "fully paid for with cuts to inefficient spending programs and closing tax loopholes," but taxpayers will have to wait until the budget is made public to find out exactly how.
While the proposal to spend more on things like education, sick leave and health care was sure to delight many members of Obama's own party, the Republicans now fully control Congress.
"This is not a surprise," said Don Stewart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's deputy chief of staff. "Previous budgets submitted by the president have purported to reverse the bipartisan spending limits through tax increases that the Congress — even under Democrats — could never accept."
Yet Obama's move also puts Republicans in a precarious position.
Many in the GOP want to spend more on defense, especially in light of threats from terrorism and extremist groups. But Republicans are divided about how to pay. While some have argued for ignoring the spending limits, others want to offset the hikes with cuts to either domestic programs or so-called mandatory programs like Social Security and Medicare.
By proposing to raise defense spending by about the same amount as domestic programs, Obama is putting the GOP on notice that he won't accept cuts to his own priorities just to make way for more spending on national security programs that both parties are in the mood to support.
The Pentagon's base budget is currently $496 billion, plus another $64 billion for overseas missions. Obama's increases would allow for next-generation F-35 fighter jets, for ships and submarines and for long-range Air Force tankers. Military leaders have also said the earlier cuts forced reductions in pilots' flying hours, training and equipment maintenance.
On the domestic side, Obama has proposed two free years of community college and creating new or expanded tax credits for child care and spouses who both work. He's called for raising the top capital gains rate on some wealthy couples and consolidating education tax breaks, although some of those ideas have already faced intense opposition.
"Until he gets serious about solving our long-term spending problem, it's hard to take him seriously," said Cory Fritz, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
The president's budget proposal is just that — a proposal— and will not become law.
The budget frames Obama's opening offer as Democrats and Republicans head toward an inevitable clash. It's an agenda that Obama started selling in the run-up to his State of the Union address this month, and that House Democrats have sought to echo as they regroup after losing more members in the midterms.
In his meeting Thursday with House Democrats, Obama was also to insist that House Republicans not use a funding bill for the Homeland Security Department to try to quash the executive actions he took late last year on immigration and deportations. The White House called that a "dangerous view" by the GOP that would risk the country's national security.
Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.
Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The Department of Veterans Affairs is moving the director of the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center to Augusta, Georgia, to run the troubled Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.
The VA announced that Maria Andrews will move to her new job as director in Augusta within 30 days. She replaces Robert Hamilton, who resigned Nov. 30 after problems with long patient waits and treatment delays.
Regional VA Director Charles Sepich says Andrews has a proven track record as an exceptional health care leader.
Andrews has been running a 381-bed hospital with 1,000 employees. She will be taking over a 470-bed hospital with more than 2,400 employees.
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Injured and bleeding, mothers carrying infants fled from a maternity hospital shattered by a powerful gas explosion on Thursday, and rescuers swung sledgehammers to break through fallen concrete in hunt for others who may have been trapped.
At least three adults and one baby were killed, said Claudia Dominguez, spokeswoman for the city's civil defense agency. She said she could not verify a report by a local borough chief, Adrian Rubalcava, that seven had died. Federal Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said there was no official count so far of dead and injured.
City officials said 54 were injured.
Felicitas Hernandez, 35, cried as she waited outside the mostly collapsed building hoping for word of her month-old baby, who had been hospitalized since birth with respiratory problems.
"They wouldn't let me sleep with him," said Hernandez, who said she had come to the city-run Maternity and Children's Hospital of Cuajimalpa because she had no money.
The explosion occurred when the tanker was making a routine, early morning fill-up in the hospital kitchen and gas started to leak. Witnesses said the tanker workers struggled frantically for 15 or 20 minutes to repair the leak while a large cloud of gas formed.
"The hose broke. The two gas workers tried to stop it, but they were very nervous. They yelled for people to get out," said Laura Diaz Pacheco, a laboratory technician.
"Everyone's initial reaction was to go inside, away from the gas," she added. "Maybe as many as 10 of us were able to get out ... The rest stayed inside."
Workers on the truck yelled: "Call the firefighters, call the firefighters!" said 66-year-old anesthesiologist Agustin Herrera. People started to evacuate the hospital, and then came the massive explosion that sent up an enormous fireball and plumes of dust and smoke.
Herrera saw injured mothers walking out under their own power carrying babies. He said there had been nine babies in the 35-bed hospital's nursery, one in very serious condition before the explosion.
"We avoided a much bigger tragedy because the oxygen tanks are right beside (the area) and they didn't explode," Herrera said. The most affected parts of the hospital were the neonatology, reception and emergency reception units, he added.
The driver and two employees were hospitalized but are also in custody, said a Mexico City government spokesman, who could not be named because she was not authorized to speak to the press.
Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera earlier told the Televisa network that at least 54 people were injured, 22 of them children. Most of the injuries were relatively minor, he said, many caused by flying glass.
The explosion sent a column of smoke billowing over the area on the western edge of Mexico's capital and television images showed much of the hospital collapsed, with firefighters trying to extinguish fires.
"The truck must have had some failure, the hose and that's what caused the explosion," Mancera said. He said that fire continued burning because firefighters recommended that they allow the truck's remaining gas to burn off. He said there was no risk of another explosion.
Ismael Garcia, 27, who lives a block from the hospital, said "there was a super explosion and everything caught on fire."
Garcia ran to the hospital and said he and others made their way to the nursery. "Fortunately, we were able to get eight babies out," he said.
Rafael Gonzalez of the Red Cross said one 27-year-old man arrived at the agency's hospital with burns over 90 percent of his body, and he was transferred to another hospital.
President Enrique Pena Nieto expressed his sadness and support for the victims through his official Twitter account.
The hospital, located in a middle class neighborhood, is next to a school.
Major stock indexes drifted mostly higher in midday trading Thursday as investors sifted through a mix of corporate earnings and economic news. Energy stocks were among the biggest decliners as oil prices extended their slide.