Shutdown showdown looms: Unanimous Senate vote masks deep disagreements over health care law
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unanimous but far from united, the Senate advanced legislation to prevent a partial government shutdown on Wednesday, the 100-0 vote certain to mark merely a brief pause in a fierce partisan struggle over the future of President Barack Obama's signature health care law.
The vote came shortly after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz held the Senate in session overnight -- and the Twitterverse in his thrall -- with a near-22-hour speech that charmed the tea party wing of the GOP, irritated the leadership and was meant to propel fellow Republican lawmakers into an all-out struggle to extinguish the law.
Defying one's own party leaders is survivable, he declared in pre-dawn remarks on the Senate floor. "Ultimately, it is liberating."
Legislation passed by the Republican-controlled House last week would cancel all funds for the three-year-old law, preventing its full implementation. But Senate Democrats have enough votes to restore the funds, and Majority Leader Harry Reid labeled Cruz's turn in the spotlight "a big waste of time."
Any differences between the two houses' legislation must be reconciled and the bill signed into law by next Tuesday to avert a partial shutdown.
FBI: Navy Yard gunman left note saying bombardment with radio waves drove him to kill
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Washington Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis left a note saying he was driven to kill by months of bombardment with extremely low-frequency radio waves, the FBI said Wednesday in a disclosure that explains the phrase he etched on his shotgun: "My ELF Weapon!"
Alexis did not target particular individuals during the Sept. 16 attack in which he killed 12 people, and there is no indication the shooting stemmed from any workplace dispute, said Valerie Parlave, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office. Instead, authorities said, his behavior in the weeks before the shooting and evidence recovered from his hotel room, backpack and other belongings reveal a man increasingly in the throes of paranoia and delusions.
"Ultra-low frequency attack is what I've been subject to for the last 3 months, and to be perfectly honest that is what has driven me to this," read an electronic document agents recovered after the shooting.
The attack came one month after Alexis had complained to police in Rhode Island that people were talking to him through the walls and ceilings of his hotel room and sending microwave vibrations into his body to deprive him of sleep.
On his shotgun, he had scrawled "My ELF Weapon!" -- an apparent reference to extremely low-frequency waves -- along with "End to the Torment!" ''Not what yall say" and "Better off this way!" the FBI said.
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. SPENDING BILL ADVANCES AFTER SEN. CRUZ ENDS TALKATHON
The 100-0 procedural vote was merely a brief pause in a fierce partisan struggle over the future of the health care law.
Health law policies that offer low premiums come with high deductibles and copayments
WASHINGTON (AP) -- You might be pleased with the low monthly premium for one of the new health insurance plans under President Barack Obama's overhaul, but the added expense of copayments and deductibles could burn a hole in your wallet.
An independent analysis released Wednesday, on the heels of an administration report emphasizing affordable premiums, is helping to fill out the bottom line for consumers.
The annual deductible for a mid-range "silver" plan averaged $2,550 in a sample of six states studied by Avalere Health, or more than twice the typical deductible in employer plans. A deductible is the amount consumers must pay each year before their plan starts picking up the bills.
Americans looking for a health plan in new state insurance markets that open next week will face a trade-off familiar to purchasers of automobile coverage: to keep your premiums manageable, you agree to pay a bigger chunk of the repair bill if you get in a crash. Except that unlike an auto accident, serious illness is often not a self-contained event.
Avalere also found that the new plans will require patients to pay a hefty share of the cost -- 40 percent on average -- for certain pricey drugs, like the newer specialty medications used to treat intractable chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. On the other hand, preventive care will be free of charge to the patient.
Iran shows new urgency to revive stalled nuclear negotiations, get sanctions relief
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Iran showed new urgency Wednesday to revive stalled negotiations with six world powers over its disputed nuclear activities, seeking to ease crippling international sanctions as quickly as possible.
New Iranian President Hasan Rouhani said "we have nothing to hide" as diplomats prepared to meet Thursday to discuss the way forward on the negotiations that have been on hold since April.
Rouhani's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who has been tasked as the lead nuclear negotiator, said he hoped his counterparts from six world powers -- the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany -- "have the same political will as we do to start serious negotiations with a view to reaching an agreement within the shortest span of time."
Zarif will be a part of the Thursday meeting to discuss the next round of negotiations in Geneva, expected in October.
The West suspects Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon and has imposed crippling sanctions on Tehran that have slashed its vital oil exports and severely restricted its international bank transfers. Inflation has surged and the value of the local currency has plunged.
FBI agents working in bullet-scarred, scorched Kenya mall amid corpses
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Working near bodies crushed by rubble in a bullet-scarred, scorched mall, FBI agents began fingerprint, DNA and ballistic analysis Wednesday to help determine the identities and nationalities of victims and al-Shabab gunmen who attacked the shopping center, killing more than 60 people.
A gaping hole in the mall's roof was caused by Kenyan soldiers who fired rocket-propelled grenades inside, knocking out a support column, a government official told The Associated Press. The official, who insisted he not be identified because he was sharing security information, said the soldiers fired to distract a terrorist sniper so hostages could be evacuated.
Video of the roof collapse showed massive carnage. The collapse came Monday, shortly after four large explosions rang out followed by billows of black smoke. Although a government minister said the terrorists had set mattresses on fire, causing the roof to collapse, the video showed such massive destruction that the explanation seemed unlikely to be the full story.
Al-Shabab on its Twitter feed Wednesday claimed that the Kenyan government assault team carried out "a demolition" of the building.
The current death toll is 67 and is likely to climb with uncounted bodies remaining in the wreckage of the Nairobi mall. Another 175 people were injured, including more than 60 who remain hospitalized. At least 18 foreigners were among those killed.
Bill to end NSA's bulk collection of phone records put forward by bipartisan group of senators
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Spying by the National Security Agency has cost the United States economically and angered allies, a bipartisan group of senators said Wednesday in unveiling legislation that would end the collection of millions of Americans' phone records and data on Internet usage.
Three Democrats -- Oregon's Ron Wyden, Mark Udall of Colorado and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut -- and Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky outlined their legislation to end longstanding NSA surveillance practices and open up some of the actions of the secret federal court that reviews government surveillance requests.
The lawmakers argued that their bill is the appropriate response to disclosures this past summer about the sweeping surveillance programs -- one that gathers U.S. phone records and another that is designed to track the use of U.S.-based Internet servers by foreigners with possible links to terrorism.
Wyden said the programs and revelations have undercut U.S. businesses required to provide data to the intelligence community while infuriating foreign leaders. Earlier this week, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff accused the United States of violating her country's sovereignty by sweeping up data from billions of telephone calls and emails that have passed through Brazil, including her own.
In protest, Rousseff scuttled a scheduled state visit to the United States.
Former President George H.W. Bush serves as witness at friends' Maine same-sex wedding
KENNEBUNK, Maine (AP) -- Former President George H.W. Bush was an official witness at the same-sex wedding of two longtime friends, his spokesman said Wednesday.
Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, attended the ceremony joining Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen as private citizens and friends on Saturday, spokesman Jim McGrath said.
Thorgalsen posted a photo on her Facebook page showing Bush signing the marriage license as a witness. She captioned the photo: "Getting our marriage license witnessed!"
In the photo, Bush is seated in a wheelchair, a stack of papers on his lap and his left hand poised with a pen. One bright red sock and one bright blue one peek out below the cuffs of his blue slacks.
The 41st president has deep ties to the area and owns a compound in Kennebunkport, a small coastal town. Thorgalsen and Clement own a general store in neighboring Kennebunk. They were honeymooning overseas and didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday.
New $100 bill heads for circulation, aims to improve security with ink well, more color, 3-D
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- A glitzier, high-tech version of America's $100 bill is rolling off the presses and headed for wallets soon.
Despite years of production-related delays, the updated $100 bill has undergone a major makeover that includes a color-changing ink well, 3-D security ribbon, and more texture on Benjamin Franklin's collar.
The new, more expensive C-note is scheduled to enter circulation Oct. 8 and also has a higher calling: It aims to fight back against counterfeiters by using better printers and technology.
The modifications will help people check for fake $100s without going to a bank or using a blacklight, said Michael Lambert, a deputy associate director at the Federal Reserve.
"We try and find security features that can be used at a number of different levels, from more experienced cash handlers ... down to the person on the street who really needs to know the security features so they can protect themselves," Lambert said in an interview Wednesday.
Spithill, Oracle complete incredible comeback, beat Team New Zealand to keep America's Cup
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The big black cat almost used up its last life at the start, burying its bows in a wave and falling behind a boatload of Kiwis.
Of course, it was only fitting in this America's Cup that Oracle Team USA would need to survive near-defeat again.
With one last spectacular push in a winner-take-all finale Wednesday, the United States managed to hang onto the Auld Mug in closing out the longest, fastest and, by far, wildest America's Cup ever with one of the greatest comebacks in sports.
"I'm going to rank it No. 1. We never gave up," skipper Jimmy Spithill said.
Spithill steered Oracle's space-age, 72-foot catamaran to its eighth straight victory, speeding past Dean Barker and Team New Zealand sailing upwind in Race 19 on a San Francisco Bay course bordered by the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the Embarcadero.