National news briefs: 5/25/14

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Gates to lead Boy Scouts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Robert Gates, the former secretary of defense and director of the CIA, was elected president of the Boy Scouts of America on Thursday, formally taking leadership of an organization that continues to be roiled by its policy on gay Scouts and leaders.

Mr. Gates, 70, an Eagle Scout who has also been president of Texas A&M University, is the rare Scout leader to have a national reputation before being elected, which could become important as pressure on the group persists from corporations, religious groups and advocates for equal rights. While serving as defense secretary, he supported the 2010 repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military.

Since last May, when the Boy Scouts' national board voted to allow openly gay children to become Scouts but to continue to bar openly gay adults age 18 and over from leadership positions, the group has been criticized by some for having gone too far, and by others for not going far enough. (The policy went into effect Jan. 1.)

Obama to visit reservation

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama plans to travel to a Native American reservation in North Dakota in June, a rare visit by a sitting U.S. president.

The Obama administration has supported a series of measures to improve the welfare of Native Americans.

It is unusual for a U.S. president to travel to Indian country, according to tribal leaders. In 1999, President Bill Clinton visited the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota, home to Wounded Knee Creek, the infamous site where at least 150 Lakota Sioux men, women and children were massacred by U.S. soldiers in 1890. He was the first sitting president to visit a reservation since Franklin D. Roosevelt visited a Cherokee reservation in North Carolina in 1936.

Edwards back in courtroom

RALEIGH, N.C. -- John Edwards, the former U.S. senator and presidential candidate, returned to the courtroom last week in his first trial as a lawyer since his political collapse.

Mr. Edwards, 60, hung out a law shingle again in November with Raleigh lawyer David Kirby and his daughter, Cate Edwards.

He was acquitted in his 2012 trial of one of six campaign finance charges against him. Prosecutors dismissed five other felony charges after a jury deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial.

Civil suit in NYC crane deaths

NEW YORK -- A construction crane owner who was acquitted of manslaughter in 2012 in a collapse that killed two workers is facing a civil wrongful death trial over the accident.

The killed workers' families are suing crane owner James Lomma, his company and others involved in a Manhattan high-rise construction site where a crane snapped apart in May 2008. Defense openings are due Tuesday.

Hawaii death penalty case

HONOLULU -- A federal jury on Friday decided a former Hawaii soldier convicted of murder is eligible for the death penalty in the first capital case in the history of Hawaii's statehood.

Jurors will weigh whether Naeem Williams should be sentenced to death or life in prison with no possibility of release for killing his 5-year-old daughter.

That phase of the trial begins Wednesday and will include a new round of opening statements and evidence.

The same jury last month convicted Mr. Williams in his daughter Talia's 2005 beating death. The drawn-out case has gained attention in part because it involves a capital offense in a state that doesn't have the death penalty.

Oldest American turns 115

INKSTER, Mich. -- A Detroit-area woman, a member of a select group of the living to have been born in the 19th century, marked her 115th birthday on Friday.

Jeralean Talley, who was born May 23, 1899, went fishing last year and still gets around on her own with the help of a walker. She plans to celebrate with family and friends at a local church today.

Her answer as to why she has lived so long hasn't changed over the years.

"It's all in the good Lord's hands," said Ms. Talley, who is the oldest-living American and the second-oldest person in the world, according to a list maintained by the Gerontology Research Group, which tracks the world's longest-living people.

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