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Associated Press

Posted on December 19, 2012 at 12:03 AM

Benghazi attack review finds systematic State Dept failures but no officials breached duty

WASHINGTON (AP) — An independent panel charged with investigating the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Libya that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans has concluded that systematic management and leadership failures at the State Department led to "grossly" inadequate security at the mission in Benghazi.

"Systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place," the panel said.

The report singled out the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Near East Affairs for criticism, saying there appeared to be a lack of cooperation and confusion over protection at the mission in Benghazi, a city in Eastern Libya that was relatively lawless after the revolution that toppled Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Despite those failures, the Accountability Review Board determined that no individual officials ignored or violated their duties and recommended no disciplinary action now. But it also said poor performance by senior managers should be grounds for disciplinary recommendations in the future.

The report appeared to break little new ground about the timeline of the Benghazi attack during which Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens, information specialist Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods — who were contractors working for the CIA — were killed. Stevens' slaying was the first of a U.S. ambassador since 1988.

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As Newtown embarks on string of funerals, classes resume — but not at Sandy Hook

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — Newtown returned its students to their classrooms Tuesday for the first time since last week's massacre and faced the agonizing task of laying others to rest, as this grieving town wrestled with the same issues gripping the country: violence, gun control and finding a way forward.

Funerals were held for two more of the tiny fallen, a 6-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl. A total of 26 people were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S history. The gunman also killed his mother in her home before committing suicide.

The resumption of classes at all Newtown's schools except Sandy Hook brought a return of familiar routines, something students seemed to welcome as they arrived aboard buses festooned with large green-and-white ribbons — the colors of the stricken elementary school.

"We're going to be able to comfort each other and try and help each other get through this, because that's the only way we're going to do it," said 17-year-old P.J. Hickey, a senior at Newtown High School. "Nobody can do this alone."

Still, he noted: "There's going to be no joy in school. It really doesn't feel like Christmas anymore."

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10 Things to Know for Wednesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and stories that will be talked about Wednesday:

1. A GLIMPSE INTO KILLER'S TROUBLED MIND

Hair stylists say Adam Lanza never spoke or looked at anyone during visits to their salon, and was always accompanied by his mother.

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Investors turn against some of nation's largest gun makers after Connecticut massacre

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Investors shunned some of the nation's largest gun makers Tuesday, putting up for sale the manufacturer of the Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle used in the Connecticut school shooting and worrying that the attack could soon bring stricter gun laws.

Stocks of other gun companies fell, and one sporting-goods chain said it would temporarily stop sales of military-style firearms. In Washington, some former opponents of gun control signaled that they may change their position, potentially giving stricter gun laws their best chance of passage in years.

The most notable rejection of the gun industry came when the private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management announced it would sell the maker of the rifle used in the massacre, which it called a "watershed event."

The shooting "raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level," Cerberus said in a news release. "We are investors, not statesmen or policy makers."

In an acknowledgment of the changing political climate, the National Rifle Association promised "to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again." It scheduled a Friday news conference.

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Boehner upends fiscal cliff talks with 'Plan B' — White House still seeks broad agreement

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just two weeks from an economy-threatening deadline, fiscal cliff talks hit a lull Tuesday as House Speaker John Boehner announced that Republicans would also march ahead with their own tax plan on a separate track from the one he's been pursuing with President Barack Obama.

The White House and leading congressional Democrats immediately rejected Boehner's "Plan B," which would extend soon-to-expire Bush-era tax cuts for everyone making less than $1 million but would not address huge across-the-board spending cuts that are set to strike the Pentagon and domestic programs next year.

"Everyone should understand Boehner's proposal will not pass the Senate," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Boehner's surprise move came after significant progress over the past several days in talks with Obama — talks that produced movement on tax rate hikes that have proven deeply unsettling to GOP conservatives and on cuts to Social Security benefits that have incensed liberal Democrats.

Just Monday, Obama offered concessions, including a plan to raise top tax rates on households earning more than $400,000 instead of the $250,000 threshold he had campaigned on. And the two sides had inched closer on the total amount of tax revenue required to seal the agreement. Obama now would settle for $1.2 trillion over the coming decade while Boehner is offering $1 trillion.

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News organizations kept NBC correspondent's disappearance a secret at the network's request

NEW YORK (AP) — NBC was able to keep the abduction of chief Middle East correspondent Richard Engel in Syria largely a secret until he escaped late Monday because it persuaded some of this country's most prominent news organizations to hold back on the story.

Otherwise, the disappearance of Engel — probably the most high-profile international television reporter on a U.S. network — would have been big news.

Engel and three colleagues, producers Ghazi Balkiz and Aziz Akyavas and photographer John Kooistra, escaped during a firefight between rebels and their captors, forces sympathetic to the Syrian government. The journalists were dragged from their cars, kept bound and blindfolded and threatened with death.

NBC said it did not know what had happened to the men until after their escape. The first sign of trouble came last Thursday, when Engel did not check back with his office at an agreed-upon time.

The Associated Press learned of Engel's disappearance independently and was asked to keep the news quiet upon contacting NBC, said John Daniszewski, the AP's vice president and senior managing editor.

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2 inmates pull escape from Chicago's high-rise jail using rope to climb down about 20 stories

CHICAGO (AP) — A massive manhunt is under way for two bank robbers who pulled off a daring escape from downtown Chicago's high-rise jail Tuesday by apparently squeezing through a narrow window and scaling down about 20 stories using a makeshift rope.

Police helicopters and canine units swarmed the area, but not until more than three hours after Joseph "Jose" Banks and Kenneth Conley went unaccounted for during a 5 a.m. headcount. It's unclear if the men were still inside the 27-story facility at that time, U.S. Marshal's Service spokeswoman Belkis Cantor said.

Investigators later found a broken window in the men's cell, where window bars were found inside a mattress, according to an FBI affidavit filed late Tuesday. Fake metal bars also were found in the men's cell, a rope was tied to a window bar, and each man's bed was stuffed with clothing and sheets to resemble a body, the affidavit said.

It appeared to illustrate a meticulously planned escape — which came a week after Banks made a courtroom vow of retribution. Both men are facing hefty prison sentences, and the FBI said they should be considered armed and dangerous.

SWAT teams stormed at least one home in Tinley Park, a suburb south of the city. Although neither man was found, evidence suggested that both had been at the home just hours earlier, according to the FBI.

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Instagram says user photos won't appear in ads, plans to remove policy clause suggesting that

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Instagram, the popular mobile photo-sharing service now owned by Facebook, said Tuesday that it will remove language from its new terms of service suggesting that users' photos could appear in advertisements.

The language in question had appeared in updated policies announced Monday and scheduled to take effect Jan. 16. After an outcry on social media and privacy rights blogs, the company clarified that it has no plans to put users' photos in ads.

That said, Instagram maintains that it was created to become a business and would like to experiment with various forms of advertisements to make money. Instagram doesn't currently run any ads. As of now, the free service has no way to make money and brings in no revenue to Facebook.

"Our main goal is to avoid things likes advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience," Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom wrote in a blog post Tuesday.

What had riled users and privacy advocates was Instagram's new assertion that it may now receive payments from businesses to use its members' photos, user name and other data "in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation" to them.

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Arbitrator: Miss USA contestant defamed pageant by claiming it was fixed, owes $5 million

NEW YORK (AP) — A beauty queen who claimed this year's Miss USA contest was fixed has been ordered to pay the pageant organization $5 million for defamation.

In a decision signed last week, an arbitrator found that the comments from Miss Pennsylvania USA Sheena Monnin were false, harmful and malicious. Monnin had alleged that the five finalists had been selected in advance of the pageant's live telecast.

The arbitrator, Theodore Katz, said Monnin had two motives: "She was a disgruntled contestant who failed to make it past the preliminary competition" and she objected to the pageant's decision to allow transgender contestants. He wrote that the way the contest is judged "precludes any reasonable possibility that the judging was rigged."

Monnin, of Cranberry, Pa., resigned her state title after the pageant. Her allegations on Facebook and NBC's "Today" show cost the pageant a $5 million fee from a potential 2013 sponsor, Katz said.

Monnin's lawyer, Richard Klineburger III, had no comment on the decision, his office said.

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Sanchez out as Jets' starting QB; McElroy gets first NFL start Sunday vs. Chargers

NEW YORK (AP) — Mark Sanchez is no longer the New York Jets' franchise quarterback.

He might not even be the backup.

Rex Ryan decided to bench Sanchez on Tuesday in favor of Greg McElroy after the fourth-year quarterback had another miserable performance in a 14-10 loss at Tennessee on Monday night that eliminated New York from playoff contention.

"I think it's best for our team, and for this game," Ryan said during a conference call.

So, it'll be McElroy under center for his first NFL start when the Jets (6-8) play the San Diego Chargers at home Sunday. Ryan hasn't decided whether Sanchez or Tim Tebow — listed as the No. 2 quarterback — will be the backup.

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