As first hours of carnage unfolded at Nairobi mall, tales of survival emerged
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- It's 1:30 on Saturday afternoon in the Westgate Mall. Rafia Khan is huddling in a crawl space of the Millionaires Casino with her cousin and eight other people as gunmen roam the building and shoot, again and again, into crowds of shoppers.
Now she is teaching those in hiding -- perfect strangers -- words that she hopes will keep them alive.
The group had found the ceiling-level space as they fled gunfire and explosions.
While they are hiding, word spreads by mobile phone text messages that Islamic militants have taken control of the shopping mall that houses the casino. Word also spreads that the gunmen are allowing Muslims to leave -- testing them by asking about their knowledge of Islam.
Khan and her cousin are the only Muslims among the small group. They decide to teach the others to recite the Shahada, the short Arabic-language creed that proclaims there is only one God and Muhammed is his prophet.
Government shutdown in sight? House GOP nixes stopgap bill if it fails to defund Obamacare
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Moving closer to the brink of a government shutdown, House Republicans vowed Thursday they won't simply accept the stopgap legislation that is likely to remain after Senate Democrats strip away a plan to dismantle President Barack Obama's health care law.
A sense of confusion settled over the House, both over how to avoid a shutdown and how to handle even more important legislation to increase the government's borrowing ability to avert a default on U.S. obligations. Short of votes, House leaders shelved a vote that had been expected this weekend on the debt limit measure and gave frustrated GOP lawmakers few clues about what they plan to do to avoid a shutdown.
The chaos sets the stage for weekend drama on Capitol Hill, with the Senate planning to send the fractious House a straightforward bill Friday to keep the government operating through Nov. 15 rather than partly closing down at midnight Monday.
Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and several rank-and-file Republicans said the House simply won't accept a "clean" spending measure, even though that's been the norm in Congress on dozens of occasions since the 1995-96 government closures that bruised Republicans and strengthened the hand of Democratic President Bill Clinton.
"I don't see that happening," Boehner said. Still, he declared that "I have no interest in a government shutdown" and he doesn't expect one to occur on Tuesday.
10 Things to Know for Friday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:
1. SURVIVORS SHARE CHILLING TALES OF KENYA MALL SEIGE
As word spread about Islamic militants quizzing people on their knowledge of Islam, a woman in hiding quickly tutors others on how to recite a short Arabic-language Islamic creed.
US, allies welcome new Iranian attitude in nuclear talks, Iran hopes for deal in a year
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- U.S. and European diplomats welcomed a "significant shift" in Iran's attitude at talks on Thursday aimed at resolving the impasse over Tehran's disputed nuclear activities. Iran said it was eager to dispel the notion that it is trying to develop a nuclear weapon and to get international sanctions lifted as fast as possible.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shook hands and sat next to each other at the meeting with five other world powers. Kerry leaned over to Zarif as the meeting was ending and said: "Shall we talk for a few minutes." They then had an unexpected one-on-one meeting.
It was the highest-level direct contact between the United States and Iran in six years.
Zarif said the meeting with the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany agreed to fast-track negotiations. He said Iran hopes they can reach a deal within a year.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also said the parties had agreed to "go forward with an ambitious timeframe."
Key powers reach agreement on UN resolution on eliminating Syria's chemical weapons
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The five permanent members of the deeply divided U.N. Security Council reached agreement Thursday on a resolution to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, a major step in taking the most controversial weapon off the battlefield of the world's deadliest current conflict.
Senior U.S., Russian, British and French diplomats confirmed the agreement, which also includes China. The full 15-member Security Council met behind closed doors Thursday night, and Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said he would introduce the text there.
A vote on the resolution still depends on how the full council responds to the draft, and on how soon an international group that oversees the global treaty on chemical weapons can adopt a plan for securing and destroying Syria's stockpile. Diplomats said the earliest the Security Council could vote would be late Friday.
Both Lyall Grant and a senior U.S. State Department official described the draft resolution as "binding and enforceable."
But the draft resolution, seen by The Associated Press, makes clear that there is no trigger for enforcement measures if Syria fails to comply. Instead, it states that the Security Council will "impose measures under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter," which will require a second resolution.
Intelligence chief sidesteps questions about tracking locations of cellphone calls
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation's top intelligence official on Thursday sidestepped questions from a senator about whether the National Security Agency has ever used Americans cellphone signals to collect information on their whereabouts that would allow tracking of the movements of individual callers.
Asked twice by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., if NSA had ever collected or made plans to collect such data, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander answered both times by reading from a letter provided to senators who had asked the same question last summer. He also cited a classified version of the letter that was sent to senators and said, "What I don't want to do ... is put out in an unclassified forum anything that's classified."
Wyden promised to keep asking.
"I believe this is something the American people have a right to know, whether NSA has ever collected or made plans to collect cell site information," Wyden said.
The testy exchange at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing illustrates the wider tension that has grown between the public and the U.S. intelligence community, following disclosures by Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former systems analyst on contract to the NSA, about the extensive NSA collection of telephone and email records of millions of Americans.
Interpol issues alert for 'the white widow' amid suspicions she took part in Nairobi attack
LONDON (AP) -- The tabloids call her "the white widow," a British-born Muslim convert who was married to one of the suicide bombers in the 2005 attack on London's transit system. And for days now, the British media have been rife with speculation she took part in the terrorist takeover at a Nairobi shopping mall.
On Thursday, Interpol, acting at Kenya's request, issued an arrest notice for 29-year-old fugitive Samantha Lewthwaite -- not in connection with the mall attack, but over a 2011 plot to bomb holiday resorts in Kenya.
If Lewthwaite indeed embraced the jihadi cause, it would mark a chilling turnaround for the apparently grieving widow who originally condemned the London transit bombings and criticized her late husband, Jermaine Lindsay, for taking part.
Officials have not made public any evidence linking her to the mall attack. The Interpol notice did not mention it. And al-Shabab, the Somali Islamic extremist group behind the takeover, denied any female fighters participated.
Nevertheless, the timing of the Interpol notice so soon after the attack fueled speculation she was involved in some way -- suspicions that were stoked earlier in the week by comments from Kenya's foreign minister that a British woman had a role in the bloodbath.
From 2004 to May this year, Justice Department has spent nearly $5M on drones
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The FBI has been using drones to support its law enforcement operations since 2006 and has spent more than $3 million on the unmanned aircraft, the Justice Department's internal watchdog said Thursday.
The disclosure came in a new report by the Justice Department's inspector general, Michael Horowitz, who revealed that the department also has awarded $1.26 million to at least seven local police departments and nonprofit organization for drones.
In addition, the IG said another Justice Department component, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, plans to use drones to support future operations. To date, the ATF has spent almost $600,000, the IG report stated.
From 2004 to May 2013, the Justice Department spent almost $5 million on the unmanned aircraft.
In June, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress that the FBI occasionally uses the unmanned aerial vehicles but was developing guidelines in anticipation of issues that will arise "as they become more omnipresent." In one instance earlier this year, the FBI used drones at night during a six-day hostage standoff in Alabama.
Exit Sandman: Rivera bids goodbye to Bronx with hugs, tears, cheers in Yanks' 4-0 loss Rays
NEW YORK (AP) -- Mariano Rivera said goodbye to Yankee Stadium with hugs, tears and cheers.
Baseball's most acclaimed relief pitcher made an emotional exit in his final appearance in the Yankees' home pinstripes, when captain Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte came to the mound to remove him with two outs in the ninth inning of a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.
"It's time to go," Jeter appeared to tell Rivera.
Tampa Bay won its seventh straight and leads the AL wild-card race.
During four minutes of thunderous chanting from the sellout crowd 48,675, an overcome Rivera sobbed as he buried his head on the shoulder of Pettitte, who also is retiring when the season ends Sunday, and then hugged Jeter.
Bud Selig says he will retire as baseball commissioner in January 2015
NEW YORK (AP) -- Bud Selig took over a sport with $1.7 billion in revenue, four teams in each year's postseason, economic disparity among the clubs and a fixation on sticking with traditions that dated to the 19th century.
After a decade of maintaining his departure was imminent, the 79-year-old baseball commissioner put his exit plans in writing Thursday and said in a statement he will retire in January 2015 after 22 years -- the second-longest term behind Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
His revolutionary reign produced an $8 billion industry, interleague play, an expanded postseason and two decades of labor peace. But, he also presided over a canceled World Series and long-running drug scandal.
"He's been the voice of baseball. Some people liked his voice. Some people didn't," Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I have a lot of respect for the guy."
Selig has been a bit of the Boy Who Cried Wolf in the past when it came to his retirement. He said in 2003 that he would step down at the end of 2006 but has repeatedly accepted new contracts.