Thursday, April 10, 2014

Published:

Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius resigning after rocky rollout of health care law

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning as the White House seeks to move past the election-year political damage inflicted by the rocky rollout of President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

Sebelius' resignation comes just over a week after sign-ups closed for the first year of insurance coverage under the so-called Obamacare law. The opening weeks of the enrollment period were marred by widespread website woes, though the administration rebounded strongly by enrolling 7.1 million people by the March 31 deadline, exceeding initial expectations. Enrollment has since risen to 7.5 million as people were given extra time to complete applications.

Even with the late surge in sign-ups, the law remains unpopular with many Americans and Republicans have made it a centerpiece of their efforts to retake the Senate in the fall.

Sebelius' resignation could also set the stage for a contentious confirmation hearing to replace her. In a sign that the White House is seeking to avoid a nomination fight, the president was tapping Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace Sebelius. Burwell was unanimously confirmed by the Senate for her current post.

A White House official requested anonymity to confirm Sebelius' resignation and Burwell's nomination ahead of the formal announcement. Obama has not nominated anyone to replace Burwell as budget director.

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Stocks drop as investors dump biotech, other former favorites; Nasdaq has worst day since 2011

NEW YORK (AP) -- The high-flyers are laying the stock market low -- once again.

Investors turned against biotech, Internet and other once-soaring stocks on Thursday, driving the Nasdaq composite index to its worst day since 2011.

The sell-off in tech names dragged down the broader market and left all the major U.S. indexes in the red for the year.

Steep declines in tech, followed by rebounds, have become a familiar pattern in the stock market in recent weeks. After falling Monday, the Nasdaq and other major index rallied over the next two days. On Thursday, stocks dropped again, led once more by biotech and technology companies.

The slide represents a shift in investor psychology. After chasing their huge gains in 2013, investors are worried that stocks like Facebook and Gilead Sciences, which doubled last year, have become too expensive.

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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. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS QUITTING OBAMA CABINET

Her departure after five years as head of Health and Human Services follows the rocky rollout of 'Obamacare.'

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Lawyer: Teenage stabbing rampage suspect was 'like deer in headlights' after attack

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The 16-year-old boy accused of stabbing 22 people at his high school was dazed "like a deer in the headlights" hours later and doesn't fully grasp what he did, his attorney said Thursday as he sketched out the beginnings of a possible mental health defense.

Deepening the mystery of what set off the violence, attorney Patrick Thomassey said Alex Hribal had no history of mental illness or troublemaking, didn't abuse drugs and was no outcast at school, where the lawyer described him as a B or B-plus student.

"In a case like this, it's pretty obvious to me that there must be something inside this young man that nobody knew about," Thomassey told The Associated Press.

The local prosecutor, meanwhile, said Hribal remained an enigma.

"We have very little information about him," Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said, "except for the fact that he was a student, his age, and how he was as a student."

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Another 'possible signal' detected in Flight 370 search zone where past sounds were heard

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- An air and sea hunt for the missing Malaysian jet resumed Friday in the same swath of the southern Indian Ocean where an underwater sensor made the fifth detection of a signal in recent days, raising hopes that searchers are closing in on what could be a flight recorder.

An Australian air force P-3 Orion, which has been dropping sonar buoys into the water near where four sounds were heard earlier, picked up a "possible signal" on Thursday that may be from a man-made source, said Angus Houston, who is coordinating the search for Flight 370 off Australia's west coast.

The latest acoustic data needed to be analyzed, he said. If confirmed, the signal would further narrow the hunt for the plane, which vanished March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard.

The Australian ship Ocean Shield, which is towing a U.S. Navy device to detect signal beacons from a plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders, picked up two underwater sounds Tuesday. Two sounds it detected Saturday were determined to be consistent with the pings emitted from the flight recorders, or "black boxes."

The searchers are trying to pinpoint the location of the source of the signals so they can send down a robotic submersible to look for wreckage and the flight recorders from the Malaysian jet.

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Putin warns European leaders: Gas dispute with Ukraine can threaten their own energy supplies

MOSCOW (AP) -- Vladimir Putin warned Europe on Thursday that it may face a shutdown of Russian natural gas supplies if it fails to help Ukraine settle its enormous Russian gas bill -- a debt that far exceeds a bailout package offered by the International Monetary Fund.

The Russian president's letter to 18 mostly Eastern European leaders, released Thursday by the Kremlin, aimed to divide the 28-nation European Union and siphon off to Russia the billions that the international community plans to lend to Ukraine. It was all part of Russia's efforts to retain control over its struggling neighbor, which is teetering on the verge of financial ruin and facing a pro-Russian separatist mutiny in the east.

Putin's message is clear: The EU has tried to lure Ukraine from Russia's orbit and into its fold, so it should now foot Ukraine's gas bill -- or face the country's economic collapse and a disruption of its own gas supplies.

The tough warning raises the ante ahead of international talks on settling the Ukrainian crisis that for the first time will bring together the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine.

The U.S. State Department on Thursday condemned what it called "Russia's efforts to use energy as a tool of coercion against Ukraine."

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Hillary Clinton ducks, avoids shoe thrown at her during speech at Vegas recycling conference

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A woman was taken into federal custody Thursday after throwing a shoe at Hillary Clinton as the former Secretary of State began a Las Vegas convention keynote speech.

The incident happened moments after Clinton took the stage before an Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries meeting at the Mandalay Bay resort.

Clinton ducked, and she did not appear to be hit by the object. She then joked about it.

"Is that somebody throwing something at me? Is that part of Cirque de Soleil?" Clinton quipped.

Many in the audience of more than 1,000 people in a large ballroom laughed and applauded as Clinton resumed her speech.

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Stephen Colbert to replace David Letterman on CBS late show

NEW YORK (AP) -- CBS moved swiftly Thursday to replace the retiring David Letterman with Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, who will take over the "Late Show" next year and do battle with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel for late-night television supremacy.

Colbert, 49, has been hosting "The Colbert Report" at 11:30 p.m. ET since 2005, in character as a fictional conservative talk-show host. The character will retire with "The Colbert Report."

"Simply being a guest on David Letterman's show has been a highlight of my career," Colbert said. "I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave's lead."

Letterman, who turns 67 on Saturday, announced on his show last week that he would retire sometime in 2015, although he hasn't set a date. CBS said Thursday that creative elements of Colbert's new show, including where it will be based, will be announced later.

Mayors of New York and Los Angeles have already publicly urged the new "Late Show" host to choose their city. New York would appear to have the clear edge, since Colbert is already based in New York and CBS owns the Ed Sullivan Theater, where the "Late Show" has been taped since Letterman took over in 1993.

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Harvard study: Tests indicate controversial 'Jesus' wife' text likely ancient document

BOSTON (AP) -- New scientific tests suggest a fragment of papyrus in which Jesus speaks of "my wife" is more likely an ancient document than a forgery, according to an article published Thursday by the Harvard Theological Review.

The text, which is written in Coptic and is roughly the size of a business card, specifically contains the phrase "Jesus said to them, my wife."

Karen King, a Harvard professor of divinity, says the papyrus probably dates to eighth century Egypt, based on radiocarbon dating and tests on the ink's chemical composition.

"If it was written in the eighth or even the ninth century, it's still an ancient document," she said in a conference call Thursday. "It's not a modern forgery."

But, she stressed, the fragment doesn't prove that the historical Jesus was actually married. Most reliable evidence from early Christianity is silent on Jesus' marital status, King added.

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No worries: Adam Scott, comfortable in a green jacket, opens with 69 and 1 shot behind Haas

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- No nerves. No worries. Adam Scott never knew the opening round at Augusta National could be so enjoyable.

With his green jacket upstairs in the locker room for Masters champions, Scott made only one bad swing that cost him two shots in a round of 3-under 69. It was the lowest opening score by a defending champion in 13 years, and it left Scott one shot behind leader Bill Haas on an otherwise demanding day.

"It was really how you hope to come out and play at any major, and especially the Masters," Scott said. "And there's no doubt winning the Masters last year had me a little more comfortable on the first tee than I've ever been in the past, because I didn't have the legs shaking and nerves jangling for six or seven holes like usual."

Haas, with a rich family history at Augusta that includes a green jacket for his great uncle Bob Goalby, settled down after an opening bogey with a collection of good birdie putts and an 8-iron to 5 feet for birdie on the 18th for a 68.

It was the first time in 18 majors that Haas has had the lead after any round. That only gets him a crystal vase for the low round of the day at the Masters. Haas knows better than to put too much stock into what happens Thursday. He was leading after the opening round in Houston last week and tied for 37th.