Obama meeting with congressional leaders produces no progress on ending government shutdown
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama brought congressional leaders to the White House on Wednesday for the first time since a partial government shutdown began, but there was no sign of progress toward ending an impasse that has idled 800,000 federal workers and curbed services around the country.
The standoff continued after a White House summit with chief executives as financial leaders and Wall street urged a resolution before serious damage is done to the U.S. and world economy.
Obama "refuses to negotiate," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio., told reporters after private talks that lasted more than an hour. "All we're asking for here is a discussion and fairness for the American people under Obamacare."
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said moments later, "We're locked in tight on Obamacare" and neither the president nor Democrats will accept changes in the nation's 3-year-old health care law as the price for spending legislation needed to end the two-day partial shutdown.
With the nation's ability to borrow money soon to lapse, Republicans and Democrats alike said the shutdown could last for two weeks or more, and soon oblige a divided government to grapple with both economy-threatening issues at the same time.
Computer glitches put pressure on state, federal governments to fix health insurance exchanges
The pressure is on for the federal government and states running their own health insurance exchanges to get the systems up and running after overloaded websites and jammed phone lines frustrated consumers for a second day as they tried to sign up for coverage using the new marketplaces.
In some ways, the delays that persisted Wednesday were good news for President Barack Obama and supporters of his signature domestic policy achievement because the holdups showed what appeared to be exceptionally high interest in the overhauled insurance system. But if the glitches aren't fixed quickly, they could dampen enthusiasm for the law at the same time Republicans are using it as a rallying cry to keep most of the federal government closed.
"It was worse today than it was yesterday," Denise Rathman of Des Moines said after she tried for a second day to log onto the Iowa site.
Rathman has insurance through Dec. 31 but said she is eager to sign up for a policy because of her psoriatic arthritis, which has caused her to be denied insurance in the past.
David Berge, a pastor with two young children in Shoreview, Minn., tried unsuccessfully at least 10 times to create an online account on the state-run site MNsure. His high-deductible plan expires at the end of the year.
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. NO PROGRESS AFTER PRESIDENT OBAMA, LAWMAKERS MEET
House Speaker John Boehner says the president "refuses to negotiate," while Nancy Pelosi says Republicans keep "moving the goal posts" on a budget deal.
After examination of Jackson's life, jury rejects case linking promoter to his death
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- More than four years after Michael Jackson's death, a jury on Wednesday rejected the notion that the promoter of his ill-fated comeback concerts was linked to his demise, ending a long-running case that offered an unprecedented look into the singer's addiction struggles, concert preparations and his role as a parent.
The latest chapter in the often bizarre Jackson saga stemmed from a lawsuit filed by his mother against AEG Live LLC as she sought to financially punish the company for hiring the doctor convicted of killing her superstar son with an overdose of the anesthetic propofol.
At five months, it was the longest of any trial involving Jackson and gave the panel an inside look of his homes, concerts and even the offices of his doctors.
Jurors concluded that the case had many tragic elements but stopped short of awarding the singer's family hundreds of millions of dollars.
Katherine Jackson sued AEG Live in 2010 claiming the company hired her son's final doctor, Conrad Murray, and created a conflict of interest by agreeing to pay the debt-saddled cardiologist $150,000 a month to work with her son while he prepared for the "This Is It" concerts in London.
NSA chief says agency does not track US social media, but did test tracking US cellphones
WASHINGTON (AP) -- National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander revealed Wednesday that his spy agency once tested whether it could track Americans' cellphone locations, in addition to its practice of sweeping broad information about calls made.
Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on proposed reforms to the NSA's surveillance of phone and internet usage around the world, exposed in June by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden. But neither spy chief discussed proposed reforms; instead they were questioned about new potential abuses that have come to light since then.
Alexander denied a New York Times report published Saturday that said NSA searched social networks of Americans searching for foreign terror connections, and detailed 12 previously revealed cases of abuse by NSA employees who used the network for unsanctioned missions like spying on a spouse. He said all employees were caught and most were disciplined.
Alexander and Clapper also told lawmakers that the government shutdown that began Tuesday over a budget impasse is seriously damaging the intelligence community's ability to guard against threats. They said they're keeping counterterrorism staff at work as well as those providing intelligence to troops in Afghanistan, but that some 70 percent of the civilian workforce has been furloughed. Any details on the jobs held by the furloughed employees is classified.
Congress is mulling changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that some believe allows the NSA too much freedom in gathering U.S. data as part of spying on targets overseas.
'Hunt for Red October' author Tom Clancy, known for his geopolitical thrillers, dies at 66
NEW YORK (AP) -- In 1985, a year after the Cold War thriller "The Hunt for Red October" came out, author Tom Clancy was invited to lunch at the Reagan White House, where he was questioned by Navy Secretary John Lehman.
Who, the secretary wanted to know, gave Clancy access to all that secret material?
Clancy, the best-selling novelist who died Tuesday in Baltimore at 66, insisted then, and after, that his information was strictly unclassified: books, interviews and papers that were easily obtained. Also, two submarine officers reviewed the final manuscript.
In an interview with The New York Times in 1987, he explained that unclassified information can lead to insights about state secrets.
"One of the reasons we are so successful is that we have a free society with open access to information," he said. "If you change that, if you try to close off the channels of information, we'll end up just like the Russians, and their society does not work. The best way to turn America into another Russia is to emulate their methods of handling information."
Berlusconi weakened, but not out, after retreating from push to topple Italy's government
MILAN (AP) -- Silvio Berlusconi's failed attempt to topple the Italian government has left him weaker than ever, zapped of the aura of invincibility that has surrounded him for two decades as he faces the possible loss of his Senate seat and a ban from politics.
Still, it is unlikely to be his last act.
The 77-year-old three-time former premier staged one of Italy's most stunning political plot twists in memory on Wednesday when he took the Senate floor at the last minute to announce that he would, after all, support Premier Enrico Letta's government in a confidence vote.
It was a face-saving measure that came after key loyalists in Berlusconi's center-right party refused to follow his bid to collapse the coalition government as fallout over his tax-fraud conviction. The conviction carries a four-year prison sentence that endangers his role as a legislator.
"We have decided, not without internal strife, to vote in confidence" Berlusconi said.
8 killed in fiery church bus crash in Tennessee; bus crossed median, hit SUV, tractor-trailer
DANDRIDGE, Tenn. (AP) -- A bus taking a church group home to North Carolina blew a tire, veered across a highway median and crashed into a sport utility vehicle and tractor-trailer Wednesday in a fiery wreck that killed eight people, authorities said.
Fourteen other people were hurt in the accident in northeastern Tennessee, including two who were in critical condition. The bus was carrying members of the Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, N.C., which is about 140 miles east of the crash site.
The group of seniors, known as Young at Heart, had been to the 17th annual Fall Jubilee in Gatlinburg, Tenn., an event featuring gospel singers and speakers. Its website described the gathering as "three days of singing, laughing and preaching" for "mature and senior believers."
Inside the Statesville church, people were crying and hugging each other. One woman whispered "It's going to be all right" while hugging another woman. A service was scheduled for Wednesday night.
George Stadfeld, who has been a member of the church for eight years, said he knew everyone on the bus.
Firefighters say Tesla Model S car fire involved battery; stock falls after video goes online
SEATTLE (AP) -- Flames that engulfed the front end of a Tesla electric car near Seattle also burned in the vehicle's battery pack, making it difficult for firefighters to extinguish the blaze, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
In an incident report released under Washington state's public records law, firefighters wrote that they appeared to have Tuesday's fire under control, but the flames reignited. Crews found that water seemed to intensify the fire, so they began using a dry chemical extinguisher.
After dismantling the front end of the vehicle and puncturing holes in the battery pack, responders used a circular saw to cut an access hole in the front section in order to apply water to the battery, according to documents. Only then was the fire extinguished.
Shares of Tesla Motors Inc. fell more than 6 percent Wednesday after an Internet video showed flames spewing from the vehicle, which Tesla has touted as the safest car in America.
The liquid-cooled 85 kilowatt-hour battery in the Tesla Model S is mounted below the passenger compartment floor and uses lithium-ion chemistry similar to the batteries in laptop computers and mobile phones. Investors and companies have been particularly sensitive to the batteries' fire risks, especially given issues in recent years involving the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid car and Boeing's new 787 plane.
From promise to reality: Gene sequencing solves one-fourth of mystery diseases in kids, adults
They were mystery diseases that had stumped doctors for years -- adults with strange symptoms and children with neurological problems, mental slowness or muscles too weak to let them stand. Now scientists say they were able to crack a quarter of these cases by decoding the patients' genes.
Their study is the first large-scale effort to move gene sequencing out of the lab and into ordinary medical care, and it shows that high hopes for this technology are finally paying off.
"This is a direct benefit of the Human Genome Project," the big effort to decode our DNA, said Dr. Christine M. Eng of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "We're now able to directly benefit patients through more accurate diagnosis."
She led the study, which was published online Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine. It gives results on the first 250 patients referred to Baylor for a newer type of sequencing -- just the DNA segments that hold the recipes for all the proteins the body needs. That's only about 1 percent of the whole genome.
Baylor has sequenced more patients beyond those in the study -- 1,700 so far -- and found gene flaws in 1 out of 4, Eng said.