Gunman with vendetta against TSA kills 1 officer, wounds 2 others at LAX; suspect in custody
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A man carrying a note that said he wanted to "kill TSA" pulled a semi-automatic rifle from a bag and shot his way past a security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, killing one Transportation Security Administration officer and wounding two others, authorities said.
The gunman was wounded in a shootout with airport police and taken into custody, authorities said. His condition was not disclosed.
The attack at the nation's third-busiest airport sent terrified travelers running for cover and disrupted more than 700 flights across the U.S., many of which were held on the ground at LAX or not allowed to take off for Los Angeles from other airports.
The TSA late Friday identified the slain officer as Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39. He is the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty in the 12-year history of the agency, which was founded in the aftermath of 9/11.
The FBI and Los Angeles Airport Police identified the gunman as Paul Ciancia, 23, of Pennsville, N.J. He had apparently been living in Los Angeles.
NJ chief: LA airport suspect's father had asked for help finding son, who mentioned suicide
PENNSVILLE, N.J. (AP) -- The young man suspected of carrying out a shooting at Los Angeles International Airport had sent a sibling a text message mentioning suicide, leading their father to seek authorities' help in finding him, a New Jersey police chief said Friday.
Paul Ciancia's father called Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings early Friday afternoon, saying another of his children had received a text message from the 23-year-old "in reference to him taking his own life," the chief told The Associated Press.
The elder Ciancia, the owner of an auto-body shop in southern New Jersey, asked for help in locating Paul, Cummings said. The chief called Los Angeles police, which sent a patrol car to Ciancia's apartment. It wasn't clear whether the police visited before or after the airport shooting.
"Basically, there were two roommates there," Cummings said. "They said, 'We saw him yesterday and he was fine.'"
He told Ciancia's father that because of his son's age, he couldn't take a missing persons report.
Officials say US drone strike kills leader of Pakistani Taliban
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- A U.S. drone strike Friday killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, in a major blow to the group that came after the government said it had started peace talks with the insurgents, according to intelligence officials and militant commanders.
Mehsud, who was on U.S. most-wanted terrorist lists with a $5 million bounty, is believed to have been behind a deadly suicide attack at a CIA base in Afghanistan, a failed car bombing in New York's Times Square and other brazen assaults in Pakistan that killed thousands of civilians and security forces.
The ruthless, 34-year-old commander who was closely allied with al-Qaida was widely reported to have been killed in 2010 -- only to resurface later.
But a senior U.S. intelligence official said Friday the U.S. received positive confirmation that Mehsud had been killed. Two Pakistani intelligence officials also confirmed his death, as did two Taliban commanders who saw his mangled body after the strike. A third commander said the Taliban would likely choose Mehsud's successor on Saturday.
"If true, the death of Hakimullah Mehsud will be a significant blow to the Pakistani Taliban ... , an organization that poses a serious threat to the Pakistani people and to Americans in Pakistan," said Michael Morell, a former acting CIA director who retired in August and has championed the drone program. His comments came in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.
In letter to German lawmaker, Snowden seeks foreign help to get US spying charges dropped
BERLIN (AP) -- The U.S. refused to show any leniency to fugitive leaker Edward Snowden on Friday, even as Secretary of State John Kerry conceded that eavesdropping on allies had happened on "automatic pilot" and went too far.
Snowden made his appeal for U.S. clemency in a letter released Friday by a German lawmaker who met with him in Moscow. In it, the 30-year-old American asked for international help to persuade the U.S. to drop spying charges against him and said he would like to testify before the U.S. Congress about the National Security Agency's surveillance activities.
Snowden also indicated he would be willing to help German officials investigate alleged U.S. spying in Germany, said Hans-Christian Stroebele, a lawmaker with the opposition Green Party and a member of the parliamentary committee that oversees German intelligence.
Stroebele met with Snowden for three hours on Thursday, a week after explosive allegations that the NSA had monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone prompted her to complain personally to President Barack Obama. The alleged spying has produced the most serious diplomatic tensions between the two allies since Germany opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In his one-page typed letter, written in English and bearing signatures that Stroebele said were his own and Snowden's, the American complained that the U.S. government "continues to treat dissent as defection, and seeks to criminalize political speech with felony charges that provide no defense."
Obama says al-Qaida now more active in Iraq, discusses ways US can help stop threat
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama pledged Friday to help combat an increasingly active al-Qaida in Iraq but stopped short of announcing new commitments of assistance sought by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Al-Maliki came to the Oval Office requesting additional aid, including weapons and help with intelligence, to fight insurgent violence that has spiked in Iraq since American troops left in 2011.
"Unfortunately al-Qaida has still been active and has grown more active recently," Obama said at the end of a nearly two-hour meeting. "So we had a lot of discussion about how we can work together to push back against that terrorist organization that operates not only in Iraq, but also poses a threat to the entire region and to the United States."
Al-Maliki declined to discuss the details of his request for U.S. assistance but said the meeting was "very positive."
"We talked about the way of countering terrorism, and we had similar position and similar ideas," he said.
Appeals court sides with business owners who challenged health care law contraceptive mandate
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A divided appeals court panel sided Friday with Ohio business owners who challenged the birth control mandate under the new federal health care law.
The business owners are two brothers, Francis and Philip M. Gilardi, who own Freshway Foods and Freshway Logistics of Sidney, Ohio., and challenged the mandate on religious grounds. They say the mandate to provide contraceptive coverage would force them to violate their Roman Catholic beliefs and moral values by providing contraceptives such as the morning-after pill for their employees. The law already exempts houses of worship from the requirement.
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is one of several on the birth control issue, which likely will be resolved by the Supreme Court. There are at least three other rulings by federal appeals courts on the mandate: One sided with Oklahoma businesses; and two sided with the Obama administration in challenges brought by Pennsylvania and Michigan companies.
Writing for the majority, Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote that the mandate "trammels the right of free exercise_a right that lies at the core of our constitutional liberties_as protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act."
Brown, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said that the mandate presented the Gilardis with a "Hobson's choice: They can either abide by the sacred tenets of their faith, pay a penalty of over $14 million, and cripple the companies they have spent a lifetime building, or they become complicit in a grave moral wrong."
Reinstatement of Texas abortion law leaves few options for many poor pregnant women
HARLINGEN, Texas (AP) -- In a Texas abortion clinic, about a dozen women waited Friday to see the doctor, already aware that they would not be able to end their pregnancies there.
A day after a federal appeals court allowed most of the state's new abortion restrictions to take effect during a legal challenge, about a third of Texas' clinics were barred from performing the procedure.
Thursday's ruling made Texas the fourth and largest state to enforce a provision requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital. In places such as the Rio Grande Valley and rural West Texas, the mandate put hundreds of miles between many women and abortion providers.
Anti-abortion groups welcomed the court's surprise decision, which they insisted would protect women's health. The ruling came just a few days after a lower federal court put the law on hold.
If women did not know about the ruling before they arrived at Reproductive Services of Harlingen, clinic administrator Angie Tristan told them. Abortions are a two-day process in Texas. On Fridays, women arrive here for their initial consultation with the doctor. On Saturdays, they return for the procedure.
Next step in NYC's stop-and-frisk depends on new mayor as appeals court puts reforms on hold
NEW YORK (AP) -- Front-running mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio faces political and legal dilemmas now that a judge's ruling critical of the police department's stop-and-frisk tactic has been blocked.
The federal judge's summertime rebuke of the department's stop-and-frisk policy as discriminatory to blacks and Hispanics was a ringing affirmation of one of de Blasio's major campaign themes, helping propel him from also-ran to Democratic nominee nearly 40 points ahead in the polls days before the election.
But on Thursday a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the ruling and took the extraordinary step of booting the judge off the case for "running afoul" of the judicial code of conduct.
The decision arms Republican nominee Joe Lhota with a new line of attack as he insists that a de Blasio victory would handcuff law enforcement and return the city to its crime-filled past. Lhota, a deputy in former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's administration, has been a staunch defender of stop-and-frisk, and on Friday he released an online video saying "the entire premise of the de Blasio campaign collapsed" with the appeals court decision.
It's unclear how the federal case will proceed if de Blasio, the city's public advocate, wins Tuesday's election.
Hot dog-tossing mascot part of the team? Mo. court deciding if man injured by hot dog can sue
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- If it had been a foul ball or broken bat that struck John Coomer in the eye as he watched a Kansas City Royals game, the courts likely wouldn't force the team to pay for his surgeries and suffering.
But because it was a hot dog thrown by the team mascot -- behind the back, no less -- he just may have a case.
The Missouri Supreme Court is weighing whether the "baseball rule" -- a legal standard that protects teams from being sued over fan injuries caused by events on the field, court or rink -- should also apply to injuries caused by mascots or the other personnel that teams employ to engage fans. Because the case could set a legal precedent, it could change how teams in other cities and sports approach interacting with fans at their games.
Coomer, of Overland Park, Kan., says he was injured at a September 2009 Royals game when the team's lion mascot, Sluggerrr, threw a 4-ounce, foil-wrapped wiener into the stands that struck his eye. He had to have two surgeries -- one to repair a detached retina and the other to remove a cataract that developed and implant an artificial lens. Coomer's vision is worse now than before he was hurt and he has paid roughly $4,800 in medical costs, said his attorney, Robert Tormohlen.
Coomer, 53, declined to discuss the case. His lawsuit seeks an award of "over $20,000" from the team, but the actual amount he is seeking is likely much greater. Tormohlen declined to discuss the actual amount.
Derek Jeter gets $12 million from Yankees; Joe Nathan, Johan Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez go free
NEW YORK (AP) -- Derek Jeter and the Yankees worked out a $12 million, one-year deal that kept the captain from going on the open market, while Joe Nathan, Jose Veras, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kurt Suzuki and Franklin Gutierrez were among the players who became free agents Friday.
The Mets declined their option on injured pitcher Johan Santana, while Boston exercised its option on pitcher Jon Lester.
Toronto exercised options on closer Casey Janssen, first baseman Adam Lind and infielder Mark DeRosa and declined an option on infielder Munenori Kawasaki.
Jeter, who turns 40 next June, was limited to 17 games this year after breaking his ankle in the 2012 playoffs. He spent four stints on the disabled list in the most frustrating season of his 19-year career. His deal had included a $9.5 million player option.
Across town, the Mets declined a $25 million option on Santana and will pay the two-time Cy Young Award winner a $5.5 million buyout. Santana, who turns 35 on March 13, went 46-34 with a 3.18 ERA while with the Mets, missing the 2011 and 2013 seasons because of shoulder injuries.