Posted: Oct 28, 2013 4:00 PM
Updated: Oct 29, 2013 4:00 AM
Amid flood of revelations, US weighs ending spying on allied heads of state
WASHINGTON (AP) Faced with a flood of revelations about U.S. spying practices, the White House is considering ending its eavesdropping on friendly foreign leaders, a senior administration official said.
A final decision has not been made and the move is still under review, the official said. But the fact that it is even being considered underscores the level of concern within the administration over the possible damage from the months-long spying scandal including the most recent disclosure that the National Security Agency was monitoring the communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
On Monday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for a "total review of all intelligence programs" following the Merkel allegations. In a statement, the California Democrat said the White House had informed her that "collection on our allies will not continue."
The administration official said that statement was not accurate, but added that some unspecified changes already had been made and more were being considered, including terminating the collection of communications from friendly heads of state.
The official was not authorized to discuss the review by name and insisted on anonymity.
Medicare chief Tavenner faces lawmakers' questions over botched health overhaul rollout
WASHINGTON (AP) Trying to earn a second chance, the senior administration official closest to the implementation of the health care law's malfunctioning enrollment website will answer questions from Congress at the start of a pivotal week.
Medicare Chief Marilyn Tavenner will be questioned Tuesday by the House Ways and Means Committee not only on what went wrong with HealthCare.gov, but also whether lawmakers can trust Obama administration promises to have things running efficiently by the end of November.
At stake is what the Republicans' partial government shutdown could not achieve: a delay of President Barack Obama's law expanding coverage for uninsured Americans. As a result of widespread sign-up problems, even some Democrats have joined Republicans in calling for a one-year postponement of the law's tax penalties for the remaining uninsured. The insurance industry warns that would saddle the new system with too many high-cost patients.
Less well known than Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Tavenner was closer to the day-to-day work of setting up the enrollment website, which was handled by experts within her agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, along with outside contractors. Like other administration officials, she previously had assured Congress that everything was on track for a reasonably smooth launch in all 50 states.
"If people can't navigate such a dysfunctional and overly complex system, is it fair for the IRS to impose tax penalties?" said Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich. In a concession, the White House has said it will waive penalties for anyone who signs up by March 31, in effect granting a limited grace period.
1 year later, Superstorm Sandy survivors to light up shore along water's edge
NEW YORK (AP) Candles and flashlights will light up the shore along the East Coast as survivors of Superstorm Sandy pay their respects to what was lost when the storm roared ashore one year ago.
To mark Tuesday's anniversary, residents of coastal neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey that suffered some of the worst flooding are honoring that terrible day in ways both public and private.
On Staten Island, residents will light candles by the stretch of waterfront closest to their homes at 7:45 p.m. in a "Light the Shore" vigil. Along the Jersey Shore, people plan to shine flashlights in a symbolic triumph over the darkness that Sandy brought.
It's a time of healing for many who suffered in Sandy's wake. But the day also brings back frightening memories for people who survived the waves and wind that lashed their homes.
"People are terrified of the ocean, even though we've lived here all our lives," said Lily Corcoran, who lives in the New York City coastal neighborhood of Belle Harbor. "We're all terrified of the water and what it can do."
Fed is expected to put off any pullback in $85B monthly bond purchases in meeting this week
WASHINGTON (AP) A lot can change in six weeks.
When the Federal Reserve last met in mid-September, almost everyone expected it to start reducing the stimulus it's given the U.S. economy to help it rebound from the Great Recession.
It didn't. The Fed pulled a surprise by deciding not to slow its $85 billion-a-month in Treasury and mortgage bond purchases. Its bond buying has been intended to keep long-term loan rates low to support the economy.
And now? After a 16-day partial government shutdown and a batch of tepid economic data, no one thinks the Fed will reduce its stimulus when it meets Tuesday and Wednesday. Many analysts now predict the Fed will maintain the pace of its bond purchases into next year.
Blame the uncertainty surrounding Congress' budget fight and renewed questions about the economy's health.
Hotel: Chinese police seek info on Uighur suspects after deadly car attack at Forbidden City
BEIJING (AP) Police investigating the apparent car attack at Beijing's Forbidden City searched Tuesday for information on two ethnic Uighur minority suspects, a hotel employee said, a day after the vehicle plowed through a crowd and crashed, killing five people and injuring 38.
Police released no public information about a possible motive for the incident at one of China's most politically sensitive and heavily guarded public spaces, and it was not immediately clear if the two suspects were among the three people killed inside the vehicle.
Two bystanders, including a Filipino woman, also were killed when the sport utility vehicle veered inside of a barrier separating a crowded sidewalk from a busy avenue and then drove toward Tiananmen Gate, which stands opposite the sprawling Tiananmen Square.
Any incident in the area is sensitive because the square was the focus of a 1989 pro-democracy movement that was violently suppressed by the military.
The 38 injured were among the crowds in front of the gate, where a large portrait of Mao Zedong hangs near the southern entrance to the former imperial palace. Three other Filipinos and a Japanese man were among the injured, police said, but there were no immediate details on their conditions.
Lawsuit accusing Barneys of racial discrimination stirs emotions about 'Shopping While Black'
The usual scenario involves suspicious glances, inattentive clerks or rude service not handcuffs.
Yet when a black teen said he was wrongly jailed after buying a $350 belt at a Manhattan luxury store, it struck a nerve in African-Americans accustomed to finding that their money is not necessarily as good as everyone else's. Shopping while black, they say, can be a humiliating experience.
Much attention has been paid to the issue over the years Oprah Winfrey complained that a Swiss clerk did not think she could afford a $38,000 handbag, and even President Barack Obama has said he was once followed in stores. But according to shoppers interviewed Monday, many people don't recognize how prevalent retail discrimination is, and how the consistent stream of small insults adds up to a large problem.
"It's one thing if you don't understand. But don't ever tell me it doesn't happen to me," said Natasha Eubanks, who shops often at high-end stores in New York City. "You can't assume it doesn't happen just because it doesn't happen to you."
Sometimes, Eubanks said, it takes clerks more than five minutes to simply acknowledge her presence. Or they brush her off after a token greeting. Or they ask her question after question: "You're a black girl up in Chanel. They want to know what you're doing here, and what you do for a living."
After judge's ruling to throw out new law, Texas abortion clinics set to resume appointments
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) The only abortion clinic in a 300-mile swath of West Texas can resume taking appointments Tuesday, after a federal judge struck down new restrictions that would have effectively shuttered it and at least a dozen other clinics across the state.
Lubbock's Planned Parenthood Women's Health Center had stopped making appointments last week, bracing for this week's scheduled enforcement of a new requirement that all doctors performing abortions in the state must have admitting privileges at a hospital less than 30 miles away.
Supporters who sued to block the requirement, part of a broad series of abortion limits the Legislature approved in July, argued it was meant to outlaw abortions, not make them safer as state officials had claimed. The judge agreed, finding that the law imposed an unconstitutional burden on women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.
The admitting privileges provision "does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the state in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman's health and, in any event, places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion," Judge Lee Yeakel, an appointee of President George W. Bush, a former Texas Republican governor, wrote in his decision.
The non-descript brown Lubbock clinic, often targeted by protesters, performs abortions only on Thursdays, when a doctor flies in from East Texas to perform them. Clinic officials said the 30-mile limit would effectively end abortions at the facility.
Q&A: Deadbeat gamblers as economic indicator; A look at how the other half gambles
LAS VEGAS (AP) How do you know the economy is coming back? High rollers are paying their gambling debts.
All four major U.S. casino corporations bumped up their allowances for bad debt during the recession, with one company estimating that fewer than half of outstanding debts would be repaid. Now, companies have lowered their estimates to pre-recession rates.
The casino business was among the industries hardest hit by the economic downturn, and has been slower to recover. Visitor numbers are only now returning to 2007 levels in Las Vegas, and gambling revenue still has not completely bounced back. Even during fat times, most patrons were never offered the opportunity to gamble on credit, making this quirky economic indicator one of the lesser known corners of the gambling world.
A look at how the other half gambles:
WHY DO CASINOS ALLOW HIGH-ROLLERS TO TAKE ON DEBT?
Chris Brown's latest arrest comes at crucial time for R&B singer's career, probation
WASHINGTON (AP) Chris Brown's misdemeanor assault charge in Washington, D.C., could further complicate the R&B singer's unsettled legal situation. Additional time behind bars remains a possibility for the singer both in the District of Columbia and California where Brown remains on probation for his 2009 beating of his on-again, off-again girlfriend Rihanna.
Brown emerged from a Washington court on Monday flashing a peace sign after spending more than a day in custody on a charge filed after a man accused the Grammy winner and his bodyguard of punching him and breaking his nose outside a local hotel.
Brown's arrest early Sunday comes at a crucial time for the singer, who is releasing an album this winter and is under a deadline to complete hundreds of hours of community service to satisfy his sentence for the Rihanna attack.
His day and a half in custody are the longest time the scandal-plagued singer has spent behind bars and the case represents the most serious accusations he's faced since his attack on Rihanna. Brown left the courthouse to cheers from supporters, some of whom clapped when a judge announced he would be released.
His time in custody was much longer than the few hours he spent at a Los Angeles jail after the Rihanna attack. In contrast to Brown's LA court appearances, which routinely happen in the afternoon when his case is the only one on calendar, Brown appeared in a crowded D.C. courtroom and had to wait until the end of the day for his case to be called and his release granted.
Lester outpitches Wainwright again, Red Sox beat Cardinals 3-1 to lead World Series 3-2
ST. LOUIS (AP) David Ross caught Jon Lester's pitches into the eighth inning, then talked about the toss that really impressed him in Game 5 of the World Series.
A big paper airplane flung by a fan that floated so far, Lester stepped off the mound to retrieve it.
"We were all kind of in awe," Ross said.
Loose? The Red Sox sure sounded that way after Lester outpitched Adam Wainwright once more, Ross delivered a go-ahead double in the seventh inning and Boston beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 Monday night for a 3-2 edge.
A whisker away from yet another championship, this bearded band now goes back to Fenway Park.