U-2 pilot will get post-death medal
WASHINGTON - The Air Force will award a Silver Star posthumously to Francis Gary Powers, the pilot whose spy plane was shot down in 1960 over the Soviet Union in a defining moment of the Cold War.
The Air Force determined that the U-2 pilot showed "steadfast loyalty" while under harsh interrogation in Soviet prisons. In a report obtained by the Associated Press, it cited his "sustained courage" and gallantry despite "cajolery, trickery, insults, and threats of death."
Powers was swapped for a Soviet spy in 1962 at Berlin's Glienicke Bridge. He died in the 1977 crash of a traffic helicopter he was flying in Los Angeles. His son, Francis Gary Powers Jr., requested that his father be considered for the medal. He said the Air Force confirmed this week that it plans to award it. No date has been set for the award ceremony, the son said. - AP
Texas primary put off till April 3
HOUSTON - Texas won't hold its primary elections on March 6, Super Tuesday, a federal judge ruled after state Republicans and Democrats struck a deal to avoid holding multiple primaries.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia issued the order on behalf of the three-judge panel that is overseeing Texas's redistricting fight.
Texas will hold its primary April 3 for all federal, state and local elections, with runoff elections set for June 5, according to the order. The delay means Texans won't vote on Super Tuesday, when 10 other states are set to hold party primaries or caucuses.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Jan. 9 on a challenge stemming from complaints by Hispanic voting-rights groups and the U.S. Justice Department that election maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature are racially gerrymandered. - Bloomberg News
Obama defends himself on Israel
WASHINGTON - Defending himself sharply against Republican attacks, President Obama told a Jewish group Friday that his administration had done more than any other in support of Israel's security and declared his support for Israel to be "unshakable."
"So don't let anybody else tell a different story," Obama said. "We have been there and we will continue to be there. Those are the facts."
Obama never specifically referenced his GOP critics in his remarks to more than 5,000 listeners at a conference of the Union for Reform Judaism. But his comments came amid sustained attack from the GOP presidential field over his record on Israel, with Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and others accusing him of throwing Israel under the bus and siding with the Palestinians.
In support of Obama's assertion, administration officials cite high levels of defense spending and military cooperation as well as comments from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other Israeli officials. Barak also spoke at the conference, and Obama met with him Friday on the sidelines. - AP
Michelle Obama urged people to give to charities for the holiday season as she brought more than 800 gifts from White House staff to donate to the Marines' Toys for Tots campaign.