Govt. shutdown showdown looms
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.
Iran president ready for negotiation
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iran’s new president said Wednesday his country is ready to negotiate and has “nothing to hide” as world powers prepare to revive stalled talks over Tehran’s disputed nuclear activities.
Iran has agreed to meet with six world powers on Thursday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly to try to restart nuclear negotiations that stalled in April. The West suspects Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, something Tehran has repeatedly denied.
“If there is political will on the other side, which we think there is, we are ready to talk,” President Hasan Rouhani told editors in New York in a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. “We believe the nuclear issue will be solved by negotiation.”
But Rouhani said Iran must be careful in starting a new relationship with the U.S. after three decades of frozen ties, adding that his first goal is to reduce the distrust. He noted that there are radical voices in America and radical voices in Iran who would not like to see that happen, but said that the voices of moderation need to be strengthened and supported.
“The more two countries are apart, the more suspicions, fears and miscalculations creep in,” Rouhani said.
Health law come with 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.
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 said. 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.
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.
Al-Shabab, the Somali Islamic extremist group which carried out the attack, said Wednesday that foreigners were a “legitimate target” and confirmed witness accounts that gunmen separated Muslims from other people and let the Muslims go free. The others were gunned down or taken hostage.
“The Mujahideen carried out a meticulous vetting process at the mall and have taken every possible precaution to separate the Muslims from the Kuffar (disbelievers) before carrying out their attack,” the group said in an email exchange with The Associated Press.
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 of the FBI’s Washington field office.
Instead, authorities said, his behavior in the weeks before the shooting and records later recovered from his hotel room 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.
Syrian rebel groups break with Western-backed opposition, dealing major blow to the coalition
BEIRUT (AP) — Nearly a dozen of Syria’s powerful rebel factions, including one linked to al-Qaida, formally broke with the main opposition group in exile Wednesday and called for Islamic law in the country, dealing a severe blow to the Western-backed coalition.
The new alliance is a potential turning point, entrenching the schism within the rebellion and giving President Bashar Assad fuel for his long-stated contention that his regime is battling Islamic extremists in the civil war.
The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition — the political arm of the Free Syrian Army rebel group — has long been accused by those fighting inside Syria of being a puppet promoted by the West and Gulf Arab states supporting the Syrian rebellion.
Wednesday’s public rejection of the coalition’s authority will likely be extremely damaging for its future in Syria, particularly at a time when the U.S. and Russia are pushing for peace talks.
“If the groups involved stand by this statement, I think this could be a very big deal — especially if it develops into a more-structured alliance instead of just a joint position,” said political analyst Aron Lund.
Teen sought in butcher knife slaying of mom, brother found in food court near Las Vegas Strip
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Las Vegas-area teenager who had been sought in the U.S. and along the Mexican border following the butcher knife slayings of his mother and younger brother last week was arrested Wednesday, sitting alone at an open-air food court near the Las Vegas Strip.
Henderson police said detectives got a tip that Adrian Navarro-Canales, 16, was seen in the same food court late Tuesday, no more than nine miles from his suburban apartment where the bloody bodies of his mother and brother were found in the bathroom on Friday.
Navarro-Canales offered no resistance when he was arrested by Henderson police about 10:30 a.m., police spokesman Keith Paul said in prepared statement.
A warrant issued Monday accuses Navarro-Canales of killing his mother, Elvira Canales-Gomez, and 9-year-old brother, Cesar Navarro.
Paul said Navarro-Canales was booked into the juvenile holding area at the Clark County Detention Center in downtown Las Vegas to await an initial court appearance. Authorities say he will be tried as an adult due to the seriousness of the crime.
Schools ban Afros and other natural hairstyles for students, weighed down by history
“Why are you so sad?” a TV reporter asked the little girl with a bright pink bow in her hair.
“Because they didn’t like my dreads,” she sobbed, wiping her tears. “I think that they should let me have my dreads.”
With those words, second-grader Tiana Parker of Tulsa, Okla., found herself, at age 7, at the center of decades of debate over standards of black beauty, cultural pride and freedom of expression.
It was no isolated incident at the predominantly black Deborah Brown Community School, which in the face of outrage in late August apologized and rescinded language banning dreadlocks, Afros, mohawks and other “faddish” hairstyles it had called unacceptable and potential health hazards.
A few weeks earlier, another charter school, the Horizon Science Academy in Lorain, Ohio, sent a draft policy home to parents that proposed a ban on “Afro-puffs and small twisted braids.” It, too, quickly apologized and withdrew the wording.
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) — Skipper Jimmy Spithill and Oracle Team USA won the America’s Cup on Wednesday with one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.
Spithill steered Oracle’s space-age, 72-foot catamaran to its eighth straight victory, speeding past Dean Barker and Emirates Team New Zealand in the winner-take-all Race 19 on San Francisco Bay to keep the oldest trophy in international sports in the United States.
All but defeated a week ago, the 34-year-old Australian and his international crew twice rallied from seven-point deficits to win 9-8. Owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, Oracle Team USA was docked two points for illegally modifying boats in warmup regattas and had to win 11 races to keep the Auld Mug.
After almost dunking its chances when it buried its bows in a wave shortly after the start, Oracle showed its incredible speed when it reeled in the Kiwis while zigzagging toward the Golden Gate Bridge on the windward third leg.
As Oracle worked to keep its lead, tactician Ben Ainslie, a four-time Olympic gold medalist from Britain, implored his mates by saying, “This is it. This is it. Working your (rears) off.”