Collision course: Republican House votes to keep the government open -- if 'Obamacare' crippled
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Charting a collision course with the White House, the Republican-controlled House approved legislation Friday to wipe out the 3-year-old health care law that President Barack Obama has vowed to preserve -- and simultaneously prevent a partial government shutdown that neither party claims to want.
"The American people don't want the government shut down, and they don't want "Obamacare," Speaker John Boehner said as members of his rank and file cheered at a celebratory rally in the Capitol moments after the 230-189 vote. He stood at a lectern bearing a slogan that read, "(hash)Senate must act."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it will -- but not the way Boehner and his tea party-heavy Republican contingent want. Assured of enough Senate votes to keep the government open and the health care law in existence, the Nevada Democrat accused Republicans of attempting "to take an entire law hostage simply to appease the tea party anarchists."
Behind the rhetoric lay the likelihood of another in a series of complex, inside-the-Beltway brinkmanship episodes as conservative House Republicans and Obama struggle to imprint widely differing views on the U.S. government.
In addition to the threat of a partial shutdown a week from Monday, administration officials say that without passage of legislation to allow more federal borrowing, the nation faces the risk of a first-ever default sometime in the second half of next month.
US, Iran exchange friendly gestures, but progress on nuclear dispute will prove a tougher test
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Iran and the United States are making plenty of friendly gestures, but real progress is going to be harder. A notable first meeting between the two nations' presidents suddenly seems possible, but without nuclear concessions the U.S. is unlikely to give Tehran what it wants: an easing of punishing sanctions that have resulted in soaring inflation and unemployment.
President Barack Obama and Iran's new president, Hasan Rouhani, both will be in New York next week for the U.N. General Assembly. And a recent flurry of goodwill gestures has raised the prospect that they will meet face to face.
As part of the effort to cast a promising outlook on Iranian diplomacy, Rouhani touted his commitment to "constructive engagement" in a column published Friday in The Washington Post. He wrote that nations spend a lot of time, perhaps too much, discussing what they don't want rather than what they do want.
"This approach can be useful for efforts to prevent cold conflicts from turning hot. But to move beyond impasses, whether in relation to Syria, my country's nuclear program or its relations with the United States, we need to aim higher," Rouhani said.
"Rather than focusing on how to prevent things from getting worse, we need to think -- and talk -- about how to make things better. To do that, we all need to muster the courage to start conveying what we want -- clearly, concisely and sincerely -- and to back it up with the political will to take necessary action."
Pope blasts abortion in olive branch of sorts after denouncing church's obsession with rules
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis offered an olive branch of sorts to the doctrine-minded, conservative wing of the Catholic Church on Friday as he denounced abortions as a symptom of today's "throw-away culture" and encouraged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform them.
Francis issued a strong anti-abortion message and cited Vatican teaching on the need to defend the unborn during an audience with Catholic gynecologists.
It came a day after he was quoted as blasting the church's obsession with "small-minded rules" that are driving the faithful away. In an interview that has sent shockwaves through the church, Francis urged its pastors to focus on being merciful and welcoming rather than insisting only on such divisive, hot-button issues as abortion, gay marriage and contraception.
Even before the interview was published, some conservatives had voiced disappointment that Francis had shied away from restating such church rules. Francis explained his reason for doing so in the interview with the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, saying church teaching on such issues is well-known, he supports it, but that he doesn't feel it necessary to repeat it constantly.
He did repeat it on Friday, however. In his comments, Francis denounced today's "throw-away culture" that justifies disposing of lives, and said doctors in particular had been forced into situations where they are called to "not respect life."
EPA proposes first-ever carbon controls on new power plants, but effect 'negligible'
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Linking global warming to public health, disease and extreme weather, the Obama administration pressed ahead Friday with tough requirements to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, despite protests from industry and Republicans that it would dim coal's future.
The proposal, which would set the first national limits on heat-trapping pollution from future power plants, is intended to help reshape where Americans get electricity, moving from a coal-dependent past into a future fired by cleaner sources of energy. It's also a key step in President Barack Obama's global warming plans, because it would put in motion proposals to end what he called "the limitless dumping of carbon pollution" from all power plants.
Under the law once the Environmental Protection Agency controls carbon at new plants, it will also control carbon at existing plants -- a regulation the agency said Friday it would start work on immediately to meet a June 2014 deadline.
Yet the federal government's own analysis of the new power plant proposal concludes that it would have a "negligible" impact on carbon dioxide emissions, pose little to no costs for the industry and provide no additional benefits to the public by 2022. That's because it essentially locks in what was widely expected to happen anyway. Even without new federal regulations, the agency concluded that no new coal plants would have been built without carbon controls. Instead, the bulk of new power in this country would be supplied by natural gas, which already meets the standard announced Friday.
"The EPA ... does not anticipate this rule will have any impacts on the price of electricity, employment or labor markets or the U.S. economy," the EPA wrote in its analysis.
AP Analysis: US-Russia deal on Syria props up Assad, deals major blow to beleaguered rebels
BEIRUT (AP) -- For Syria's divided and beleaguered rebels, the creeping realization that there will not be a decisive Western military intervention on their behalf is a huge psychological blow.
President Bashar Assad's regime has gained strength, largely because the world community is concerned that if he is toppled the result may be an Islamist Syria in the grip of al-Qaida.
The immediate result has been an uptick this week in fighting between moderate and jihadi rebels.
The long-term outcome is likely to be a prolonged war of attrition that continues the slow destruction of Syria as a coherent state and further fans the flames of sectarian hatred and extremism in a turbulent Middle East.
Only two weeks ago, the Obama administration appeared poised to launch a U.S. military strike against the Syrian regime in response to the Aug 21 chemical weapons attack it says was launched by Assad's forces, killing hundreds of civilians in opposition-controlled areas near Damascus.
Chicago shooting injures 13 people, reveals gaps in stepped-up police fight against gangs
CHICAGO (AP) -- A shooting that injured a 3-year-old boy and 12 others in Chicago occurred just outside a section of the city that police have flooded with officers, reigniting outrage over the toll of the community's gun violence and the inability of stepped-up police action to stop it.
Residents had gathered in a neighborhood park Thursday to watch a late-night basketball game when assailants armed with an assault rifle indiscriminately sprayed the crowd with bullets.
On Friday, residents decried the perpetrators' disregard for those caught in the crossfire, the invasion of drugs into their communities and a lack of local leaders to stand up for them. A prominent rap artist, meanwhile, said more must be done to understand the city's youth, and a frustrated police chief again called for tougher gun laws.
"We can do a lot of really good policing. ... We can reduce crime, like we're doing, but we're not going to have success occur as long as these guns keep flowing into our community," police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said during a news conference.
"Illegal guns, illegal guns, illegal guns drive violence," he said as he called on lawmakers to toughen the nation's gun laws.
'Hiccup girl' found guilty of 1st degree murder by Florida jury; weeps in court
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) -- A Florida woman who became famous for her uncontrollable hiccupping was found guilty of first-degree murder Friday night and will serve life in prison without parole.
A Pinellas County jury deliberated for four hours before delivering the verdict against 22-year-old Jennifer Mee.
Mee wept in the Clearwater courtroom as the verdict was read. Minutes later, Judge Nancy Moate Ley explained that the only possible sentence for the charge was life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The verdict and five-day trial was a sad end to a chapter in Mee's short and sad life. Her attorneys said she suffered from schizophrenia and Tourette's Syndrome, and a court psychiatrist said Mee's intelligence was "low normal."
As a 15-year-old, Mee developed a case of the hiccups that wouldn't go away. She appeared on several TV shows and while on the "Today" show, was hugged by fellow guest and country music star Keith Urban. She tried home remedies and consulted medical specialists, a hypnotist and an acupuncturist, until the hiccups finally stopped on their own, though not for good.
Al-Qaida kills at least 38 Yemeni troops as the group's branches grow bolder across region
SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Under a heavy fog, al-Qaida militants disguised in military uniforms launched car bomb attacks on three different security and military posts in southern Yemen on Friday, killing 38 soldiers in the group's biggest attack in the country since last year.
The coordinated attacks point to how al-Qaida is exploiting the continued weakness of Yemen's military to rally back here at a time when the group's branches across the region grow more assertive. More than two years after U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, factions of the group he led are taking advantage of turmoil in multiple Arab nations to expand their presence and influence.
In Syria, foreign jihadis linked to or inspired by al-Qaida have become such a powerful force in the rebellion that the Syrian opposition on Friday accused them of being opportunists hijacking the uprising against President Bashar Assad. After the coup in Egypt toppled the Islamist president, al-Qaida leaders have called on sympathizers to join militants' fight there against the military. Iraq's al-Qaida branch has stepped up attacks in that country and extended operations into neighboring Syria.
Last month, the U.S. temporarily closed 19 diplomatic missions across the Middle East and North Africa after intelligence agencies intercepted a message between al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri and Nasser al-Wahishi, also a one-time confidant of bin Laden who leads the Yemen branch, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
"I think there's been a promiscuous rush to write al-Qaida's obituary, and it's always been presumptuous. It's certainly had setbacks ... but its resilience has always been more formidable than we imagine," said Bruce Hoffman, director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University.
Kansas j-school professor on leave after tweet about DC shootings, NRA 'sons and daughters'
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- A University of Kansas journalism professor was placed on indefinite administrative leave Friday for a tweet he wrote about the Navy Yard shootings which said, "blood is on the hands of the (hash)NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters."
David W. Guth, an associate professor of journalism, made the comment on Twitter after Monday's shootings in Washington, D.C., in which 13 people died, including the gunman. The tweet didn't attract much attention until Campus Reform.org posted a story Thursday, sparking a social media backlash that's spilled over into some state lawmakers calling for his dismissal.
The university also responded, as Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little issued a statement Friday saying that "in order to prevent disruptions to the learning environment," Guth was placed on indefinite administrative leave pending a review. His classes will be taught by other faculty members.
Guth, who on Thursday told The Associated Press in a phone interview that his tweet "got a conversation going -- that was exactly what I wanted to do," agreed Friday that the university's action was appropriate in light of email threats he and others at the university had received.
"It is in the best interests and peace of mind of our students that I remove myself from the situation and let cooler heads prevail," Guth wrote. "I know what I meant. Unfortunately, this is a topic that generates more heat than light."
BlackBerry to lay off 4,500 or 40 percent of global workforce; posts nearly $1B 2Q loss
TORONTO (AP) -- It was once so addictive it inspired the nickname "CrackBerry." President Barack Obama confessed to being among the millions of devotees who couldn't bear to stop tapping feverishly away on its tiny keyboard. Madonna once said she slept with hers under her pillow.
Then came the iPhone.
Users newly addicted to Facebook and photo-sharing and Angry Birds started flirting with the opposition. And as more smartphones flooded the market with their supersize Samsung screens and thousands of apps, the BlackBerry failed to keep up with the flash.
This year's launch of BlackBerry 10, its revamped operating system, and fancier new devices -- the touchscreen Z10 and Q10 for keyboard loyalists -- was supposed to rejuvenate the brand and lure customers. But the much-delayed phones have failed to turn the company around. At their peak in the fall of 2009, BlackBerry's smartphones enjoyed global market share of over 20 percent, says Mike Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity. Their piece of the pie has since evaporated to just 1.5 percent.
Now the company says it will lay off 4,500 employees, or 40 percent of its global workforce, as it tries to slash costs by 50 percent and shift its focus back to competing mainly for the business customers most loyal to its brand. A week earlier than expected, BlackBerry surprised the market by reporting Friday that it lost nearly $1 billion in the second quarter. It's booking over $900 million in charges to write down the value of its glut of unsold smartphones.