Boehner: Up to Democrats to prevent budget cuts; 'hard to imagine' broader budget pact
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday it's unlikely the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate will prevent a wave of automatic spending cuts from beginning to strike the economy in two weeks. Yet he sounded hopeful about avoiding a partial shutdown of the government when a temporary spending bill expires next month.
Cloistered in his Capitol office overlooking the National Mall, Boehner said in an interview with The Associated Press that he was skeptical of many of President Barack Obama's plans, laid out the night before in the annual State of the Union address.
Boehner voiced doubts about Obama's proposal for taxpayer-funded help for pre-school education for all 4-year-olds, and would not commit to passing a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants, though doing so would be "somewhat helpful" to members of his party as they seek to regain support among Hispanics. "There's no magic potion that's going to solve our party's woes with Hispanics," he said.
Boehner also refused to swing behind any of Obama's gun-control proposals and said he opposed the president's plan to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour.
The Ohio Republican said he gets along well with Obama but admits their relationship hasn't generated much in the way of results, pointing to two failed rounds of budget talks in 2011 and at the end of last year. Boehner is frustrated that spending cuts Obama signaled he would agree to in 2011 have been taken off the table since the election.
Sheriff says officers did not intentionally burn cabin where ex-cop fugitive was barricaded
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- There was no question. The man standing before Rick Heltebrake on a rural mountain road was Christopher Dorner.
Clad in camouflage from head to toe and wearing a bulletproof vest packed with ammunition, the most wanted man in America was just a few feet away, having emerged from a grove of trees holding a large assault-style rifle.
As teams of officers who had sought the fugitive ex-Los Angeles police officer for a week were closing in, Dorner pointed the gun at Heltebrake and ordered him out of his truck.
"I don't want to hurt you. Start walking and take your dog," Heltebrake recalled Dorner saying during the carjacking Tuesday.
The man, who wasn't lugging any gear, got into the truck and drove away. Heltebrake, with his 3-year-old Dalmatian Suni in tow, called police when he heard a volley of gunfire erupt soon after, and then hid behind a tree.
10 Things to Know for Thursday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:
1. BOEHNER EXPRESSES FRUSTRATION WITH OBAMA BUDGET TALKS
"Frankly every time I've gotten into one of these high-profile negotiations, it's my rear end that got burnt," he tells the AP.
First Senate hearing on immigration features calls for action, but also tensions and dissent
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lawmakers who are shaping the fate of the millions of people in the U.S. illegally were told by one Wednesday that it's time to rewrite immigration laws so that they, too, can live the American dream.
"What do you want to do with me?" an emotional Jose Antonio Vargas demanded of senators. "How do you define American?"
The first Senate hearing on immigration policy this year pointed toward an emerging bipartisan consensus that the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants should be offered a path to citizenship. But passionate divisions over the issue also surfaced as one Republican decried amnesty and shouting protesters interrupted the proceedings.
"You really mean that we're not going to have enforcement, but we've got to have amnesty first," Sen. Jeff Sessions, a top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, confronted the panel's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Leahy and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano rejected the argument that border security must be the focus before a comprehensive immigration package or any pathway to legalization can be done.
Pope celebrates last public Mass as pontiff amid tears and applause
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- With a humble "Grazie" as bishops doffed their mitres and applause echoed through St. Peter's Basilica, a frail Pope Benedict XVI began his long farewell by presiding over Ash Wednesday services in a tearful, final public Mass.
"We wouldn't be sincere, Your Holiness, if we didn't tell you that there's a veil of sadness on our hearts this evening," said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Benedict's longtime deputy, his voice breaking.
"Thank you for having given us the luminous example of the simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord," Bertone said, quoting Benedict's own words when he first appeared before the faithful above St. Peter's Square after he was elected pope.
Smiling and clearly moved, Benedict responded, "Grazie. Now let us return to prayer" -- his words bringing to an end the resounding applause that had grown in intensity over several minutes.
Then, in a rare gesture and sign of respect, the rows of bishops, some with tears in their eyes, removed their mitres. One prelate dabbed at his eyes with a handkerchief.
AP Sources: American Airlines and US Airways agree to merge and create world's biggest airline
DALLAS (AP) -- American Airlines and US Airways agreed Wednesday to a merger that will create the world's biggest airline. The deal caps a turbulent period of bankruptcies and consolidation that leaves the U.S. airline industry dominated by four big carriers.
The boards of American parent AMR Corp. and US Airways approved the deal late Wednesday, according to four people close to the situation.
The carrier will keep the American Airlines name but will be run by US Airways CEO Doug Parker. American's CEO, Tom Horton, will serve as chairman of the new company until mid-2014, these people said. They requested anonymity because the merger negotiations were private.
The deal has been in the works since August, when creditors pushed for merger talks so they could decide which earned them a better return: a merger or Horton's plan for an independent airline. American has been restructuring under bankruptcy protection since late 2011. AMR creditors and possibly its shareholders will own 72 percent of the stock, and US Airways Group Inc. shareholders will get the rest, three of the people said.
A formal announcement is expected Thursday morning.
In the age of Twitter, Israeli media are silenced on prisoner affair
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's military censor, which has long served as the country's guardian of state secrets, is suddenly under the microscope following a pair of sensitive reports broken by the international media.
An Australian broadcaster's story this week about the suspicious death of an Australian-Israeli prisoner held by Israel, following foreign reports of an Israeli airstrike in Syria last month, have revealed the limits of Israel's decades-long censorship rules and court-imposed gag orders. In today's Internet age, many are now asking whether these restrictions are even relevant.
The idea behind the objections is that in today's communications environment, when everybody is essentially a publisher with a potentially worldwide audience, to censor "the media" is somehow akin to censoring conversation itself, which Israel, as a democracy, would never conceive of doing.
"(Gag orders) are a tool that can't deal with the media reality we live in: a globalized, hyper-connected, hyper-fast world. There is no real way to control the spread of information," said Yuval Dror, an expert in digital communications.
The censorship office, which emerged from an agreement between editors and the government in the 1950s, has long wielded heavy control over reporting of Israel's military and intelligence forays abroad and over domestic affairs it wants to keep under wraps.
Carnival cancels 12 more cruises aboard ship plagued by mechanical issues stranded in Gulf
HOUSTON (AP) -- Carnival Cruise Lines has canceled a dozen more planned voyages aboard the Triumph and acknowledged that the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before an engine-room fire left it powerless in the Gulf of Mexico.
The company's announcement on Wednesday came as the Triumph was being towed to a port in Mobile, Ala., with more than 4,000 people on board, some of whom have complained to relatives that conditions on the ship are dismal and that they have limited access to food and bathrooms.
The ship will be idle through April. Two other cruises were called off shortly after Sunday's fire.
Debbi Smedley, a passenger on a recent Triumph cruise, said the ship had trouble on Jan. 28 as it was preparing to leave Galveston. Hours before the scheduled departure time, she received an email from Carnival stating the vessel would leave late because of a propulsion problem. Passengers were asked to arrive at the port at 2 p.m., two hours later than originally scheduled.
The ship did not sail until after 8 p.m., she said.
Minnesota man accused of shooting cars at random charged with murdering 9-year-old boy
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A Minnesota man accused of standing in the street and firing at passing cars -- killing a 9-year-old boy -- had roughly 200 rounds of ammunition stuffed into his jacket pocket, a backpack and the fanny pack he was wearing when arrested, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Nhan Lap Tran, 34, was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder and other counts in Monday's shootings in the St. Paul suburb of Oakdale. Fourth-grader Devin Aryal died in the shootings, and his mother and another woman were wounded. Two other motorists escaped as they were being fired upon, according to the criminal complaint.
Authorities said Tran, of Oakdale, admitted shooting at the vehicles but did not say why. A Washington County District Court judge ordered Tran to undergo a mental health examination. Tran has no criminal record, and authorities have said they don't know of any past mental health issues.
"This case is simply a senseless tragedy," Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said. "We cannot comprehend a situation where a parent loses their child in any manner, much less in this way."
Along with bullets, Tran was carrying two loaded 9 mm magazines and two large knives when he was arrested. A loaded 9 mm handgun, with a bullet in the chamber, was found just feet from him. He admitted he tossed the gun aside when he saw authorities closing in, the criminal complaint said.
Lady Gaga cancels rest of tour due to injured hip; will need surgery to repair injury
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Lady Gaga has canceled the rest of her tour dates due to a hip injury.
Live Nation Global Touring said in a news release Wednesday that Lady Gaga has a tear in her right hip that will require surgery, followed by a recovery period.
The pop star's website showed 21 dates through March 20 remaining on her "Born This Way Ball" tour schedule. Fans who have already bought tickets will receive a refund beginning Thursday.
Lady Gaga postponed four dates on Tuesday after experiencing difficulties Monday during her concert in Montreal. The singer's show is high energy with non-stop dancing. She explained to fans on Twitter that she'd hurt herself while performing some time ago.
She wrote: "I hid it from my staff, I didn't want to disappoint my amazing fans. However after last nights performance I could not walk and still can't".