Posted: May 7, 2014 4:00 AM
Updated: May 7, 2014 4:00 AM
Republicans' Benghazi point man is a seasoned prosecutor and a hard-charging conservative
WASHINGTON (AP) Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republicans' newest point man on the Benghazi attack, is a seasoned prosecutor determined to apply his well-honed courtroom skills to an election-year examination of the Obama administration's actions.
Tapped by House Speaker John Boehner, the two-term South Carolina congressman will lead a special select committee investigating the chaotic night of Sept. 11, 2012, when extremists attacked the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Multiple independent and bipartisan investigations have faulted the State Department for inadequate security at the mission and the military's lack of assets in the region. Yet the inquiries have failed to quiet the much-publicized aftermath, with Republicans vehemently insisting that the administration sought to downplay a terror attack just weeks before the presidential election.
Two years later, Benghazi resonates with Republicans, who demand accountability from Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other administration officials. It remains a rallying cry with conservatives whose votes are crucial to the GOP in November's historically low-turnout midterm elections.
Republicans are expected to force a vote Thursday to establish the select committee despite Democratic objections that it's unnecessary. It remains to be seen whether Democrats decide to boycott the panel.
Obama stresses new climate change report shows problems affecting Americans 'right now'
WASHINGTON (AP) When it came time to deliver a new federal report detailing what global warming is doing to America and the dire forecast for the future, President Barack Obama turned to the pros who regularly deliver the bad news about wild weather: TV meteorologists.
"We want to emphasize to the public, this is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now," Obama told "Today" show weathercaster Al Roker. "Whether it means increased flooding, greater vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires all these things are having an impact on Americans as we speak."
Climate change's assorted harms "are expected to become increasingly disruptive across the nation throughout this century and beyond," the National Climate Assessment concluded, emphasizing the impact of too-wild weather as well as simple warming.
Still, it's not too late to prevent the worst of climate change, says the 840-page report, which the Obama administration is highlighting as it tries to jump-start often-stalled efforts to curb heat-trapping gases. Said White House science adviser John Holdren, "It's a good-news story about the many opportunities to take cost-effective actions to reduce the damage."
Release of the report, the third edition of a congressionally mandated study, gives Obama an opportunity to ground his campaign against climate change in science and numbers, endeavoring to blunt the arguments of those who question the idea and human contributions to such changes. Later this summer, the administration plans to propose new regulations restricting gases that come from existing coal-fired power plants.
Syrian rebels begin evacuating their last bastions in city of Homs under ceasefire deal
BEIRUT (AP) Hundreds of Syrian rebels on Wednesday began evacuating their last bastions in the central city of Homs under a ceasefire deal struck last week with government forces, opposition activists and the city's governor said.
The exit of some 1,200 fighters from rebel strongholds in Homs will mark a de-facto end of the rebellion in the battered city, which was one of the first places to rise up against President Bashar Assad's rule, earning its nickname as "the capital of the revolution."
Around mid-morning Wednesday, dozens of fighters boarded five buses that arrived at the police command on the edge of the rebel-held areas ahead of the evacuation, opposition activists said. Afterward, two of the buses left the city, heading north.
An activist who goes by the name of Abu Yassin al-Homsi said all fighters and any remaining civilians were expected to leave the city during the day, adding that they would be taken a few kilometers (miles) north to the rebel held towns of Talbiseh and al-Dar al-Kabira on the northern edge of Homs province a short drive away.
Later, al-Homsi confirmed later that the first group of fighters that evacuated the city center "arrived safely" in rebel-held areas north of the province. Each fighter was allowed to carry his rifle and a bag of belongings with him. One rocket propelled grenade launcher and a machinegun were also allowed on each bus, he said.
NC Republican Tillis defeats anti-establishment rivals in primary to face Dem Sen. Hagan
WASHINGTON (AP) North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis captured the Republican nomination to oppose imperiled Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan Tuesday night, overcoming anti-establishment rivals by a comfortable margin in the first of a springtime spate of primaries testing the strength of a tea party movement that first rocked the GOP four years ago.
In Ohio, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald won the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. John Kasich in the fall. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, rolled to re-nomination for another term in Congress, his 13th.
On a night that was kind to Republican incumbents in three states, GOP Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana easily fended off a challenge from the right, rolling up 75 percent of the votes in a three-way race. First-term Rep. David Joyce of Ohio had a slightly tougher time but was running well ahead of his tea party rival.
Anti-war Republican Rep. Walter Jones defeated his challenger in North Carolina.
In North Carolina, Tillis was winning about 45 percent of the vote with ballots counted in 72 percent of the state's precincts, easily surpassing the 40 percent needed to avoid a July runoff. Greg Brannon was trailing despite support from tea party favorite Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Mark Harris, a Baptist pastor, was third.
Democratic congressional primary in NC featuring Clay Aiken of 'Idol' fame too close to call
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) The Democratic congressional primary race between former "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken and textile entrepreneur Keith Crisco remained very close and without a clear winner.
Aiken and Crisco each had about 40 percent of the vote, trailed by licensed family counselor Toni Morris of Fayetteville in Tuesday's primary race in the 2nd Congressional District.
Aiken's first political campaign drew an unusual amount of celebrity buzz thanks to his singing career and a second-place finish on "Celebrity Apprentice." Crisco spent four years as the state's top business recruiter under under former Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue.
The primary winner will challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers in November. Ellmers, first elected in the 2010 tea party wave, handily defeated her challenger in the heavily Republican district.
Aiken has said reporters are the only people asking whether being a gay man could impede his campaign to represent such a conservative district. Both he and Crisco touted themselves as centrists.
Hawaii releases video of teen stowaway dropping to tarmac from jet's wheel well
HONOLULU (AP) The security footage looks unassuming at first: a Hawaiian Airlines jet parked at a gate at the Maui airport under overcast skies, and workers going through their regular routine. Then, the 15-year-old's legs dangle briefly from the plane's belly and he drops to the concrete.
Hawaii transportation officials released video Tuesday of a California teen hopping from a jet's wheel well April 20 after stowing away for a 5 -hour flight.
The video largely confirms previous accounts given by FBI and airport officials of Yahya Abdi's seemingly unbelievable story: that he ran away from home, hopped a fence at Mineta San Jose International Airport and climbed into the wheel well of the closest plane.
Abdi survived the flight at 35,000 feet despite low oxygen and freezing temperatures.
The six minutes of security footage that the Hawaii Department of Transportation released show Abdi lowering himself from the Boeing 767 and jumping to the ground.
After fall during hair-hanging stunt, circus acrobat says 'you gotta get back up' again
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) One of eight circus acrobats who plunged about 20 feet to the ground during a hair-hanging act witnessed by thousands says she'll perform the stunt again.
"For me, you gotta get back up and do it again," Samantha Pitard told The Associated Press after being released from a hospital Tuesday.
Pitard and seven other acrobats were in an act described as a "human chandelier," hanging from an apparatus by their hair. They were injured during a Sunday performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus when a clip at the top of the chandelier-like apparatus snapped, dropping them to the ground.
The other women are still hospitalized and Pitard said she plans to stay in Providence to support her friends as they work to regain their health.
Then she'd like to return to the circus.
Court forces out Thai leader and part of Cabinet, pushing country further into turmoil
BANGKOK (AP) Thailand's prime minister was ordered by a court to step down Wednesday in a divisive ruling that handed a victory to anti-government protesters who have staged six months of street protests but does little to resolve the country's political crisis.
The Constitutional Court found Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra guilty of abusing her power by transferring a senior civil servant in 2011 to another position. It ruled that the transfer was carried out to benefit her politically powerful family and, therefore, violated the constitution an accusation she has denied.
The ruling also forced out nine Cabinet members but left nearly two dozen other ministers in their posts, including Deputy Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, who was quickly appointed the new acting leader.
The judgment marks the latest dramatic twist in Thailand's long-running political crisis. It was a victory for Yingluck's opponents, mostly from the urban elite and those in the south, who have been engaged in vociferous and sometimes violent street protests demanding she step down to make way for an interim unelected leader.
However, the ruling leaves the country in limbo and primed for more violence.
Clinton, Geithner set to spill insider Obama administration details in back-to-back memoirs
WASHINGTON (AP) Over the next month, two of President Barack Obama's closest first-term advisers will spill insider details on the administration's handling of the early days of the Great Recession, the White House's cautious response to the Syrian civil war and the genesis of clandestine talks with Iran.
The back-to-back memoirs from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and ex-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will be the latest installments in what has become an often awkward Washington ritual: one-time confidants signing big book contracts to examine a presidency that is still ongoing and policy decisions that are still being implemented.
Clinton and Geithner's books will be released just four months after former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' memoir landed like a sucker punch in the West Wing. Gates gave political advisers in the White House virtually no warning and no advance copy of his headline-generating memoir, which included sharp criticisms of Obama's decision-making.
However, Obama aides don't appear to be girding for a repeat of their experience with Gates' book as they await the release of Geithner and Clinton's memoirs.
While Geithner has not provided the White House with advance copies of his book, "Stress Test," the text has been reviewed by lawyers at Treasury and the Federal Reserve. And drafts of Clinton's book, "Hard Choices," have been circulating for months among a small number of officials in Obama's National Security Council.
China's e-commerce king Alibaba prepares for blockbuster US share sale.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Alibaba Group, the king of e-commerce in China, is dangling a deal that could turn into one of the biggest IPOs in history.
In a long-awaited move Tuesday, Alibaba filed for an initial public offering of stock in the U.S. that could surpass the $16 billion that Facebook and its early investors raised in the social networking company's IPO two years ago.
Alibaba's paperwork says it will raise at least $1 billion, but finance professionals believe that is a notional figure to get the IPO process rolling and say that the Chinese company's ambitions for the share sale are much richer.
"This is going to be the granddaddy of all IPOs," predicted Sam Hamedah, CEO of PrivCo, which researches privately held corporations.
Although it's not well-known in the United States, Alibaba is an e-commerce powerhouse that makes more money than Amazon.com Inc. and eBay Inc. combined. It has helped drive the rise of e-commerce in China, a transformation that has given millions of households greater access to clothes, books and consumer electronics in a society that in the 1980s still required ration tickets for some supermarket items.