Confirmation hearing for a new CIA director comes as Obama approves drone report for lawmakers
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's choice to head the CIA faces a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing just hours after lawmakers are expected to receive a classified report providing the rationale for drone strikes targeting Americans working with al-Qaida overseas.
John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief and Obama's nominee to run the nation's spy agency, helped manage the drone program. The confirmation hearing Thursday sets the stage for a public airing of some of the most controversial programs in the covert war on al-Qaida, from the deadly drone strikes to the CIA's use of interrogation techniques like waterboarding during President George W. Bush's administration.
Obama directed the Justice Department to provide access to the secret document to members of the Senate and House intelligence committees, an administration official said Wednesday. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the Senate committee's chairman, said the legal opinion would be provided to her committee by Thursday morning.
An unclassified memo leaked this week says it is legal for the government to kill U.S. citizens abroad if it believes they are senior al-Qaida leaders continually engaged in operations aimed at killing Americans, even if there is no evidence of a specific imminent attack.
That unclassified memo is based on classified advice from the Office of Legal Counsel that is being made available to the intelligence committees' members, the official said. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the decision and requested anonymity.
Major storm heading to New England could bring up to 2 feet of snow; ski resorts could benefit
BOSTON (AP) — A major winter storm heading toward New England may not be one for the record books, but even some of the nation's snow-hardiest people should proceed with caution, according to at least one expert.
As much as 2 feet of snow could fall on a region that has seen mostly bare ground this winter, the National Weather Service said. That's exciting for resort operators who haven't had much snow this year.
The storm would hit just after the 35th anniversary of the historic blizzard of 1978, which paralyzed the region with more than 2 feet of snow and hurricane force winds from Feb. 5-7.
"This has the potential for being a dangerous storm, especially for Massachusetts into northeast Connecticut and up into Maine," said Louis Uccellini, director of the weather agency's National Centers for Environmental Prediction.
Uccellini, who has written two textbooks on Northeastern snowstorms, said Wednesday it was too early to tell if the storm would be one for the record books. But he said it will be a rare and major storm, the type that means "you can't let your guard down."
In safety measure, police officers do paperwork in their cars outside suburban Denver schools
CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (AP) — Stunned by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut, police and school officials in one Colorado county felt they had to do something to reassure students.
Their solution: Have police officers on patrol do their arrest reports and other paperwork in school parking lots, rather than simply pulling off the road or returning to the police station.
It's had an immediate calming impact at a time when the nation is embroiled in the emotional debate over gun control and gun violence.
"The kids get to see us in a new light. We're not showing up after something bad has happened," said Sgt. Chris O'Neal of the Douglas County Sheriff's Department south of Denver.
O'Neal spoke while filling out paperwork outside Fox Creek Elementary School — one of six schools he visits daily.
Obama to push his agenda, promote economic growth in meeting with House Democrats
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is promoting his second-term agenda to House Democrats, eager to keep them unified as a bulwark against a Republican majority on issues as diverse as the economy, immigration and guns.
Obama was meeting with Democratic lawmakers Thursday during their retreat in Lansdowne, Va., a day after he held a closed-door session with Senate Democrats at their off-campus conference in Annapolis, Md.
The meetings with legislators from his own party come just days before Obama's State of the Union address next Tuesday to a joint session of Congress. This week's meetings have served as something of a preamble for that nationally televised speech.
Obama was to deliver public remarks to the House members and then take questions in a private session, officials said.
White House officials say that Obama's top priority is job creation and that he will make a case for fiscal policies that encourage economic growth. Setting up a contrast with Republicans who are insisting on spending cuts, not tax increases, to stanch federal red ink, Obama told reporters Tuesday, "We can't just cut our way to prosperity."
NM medical board to rule on complaint against one of nation's few late-term abortion providers
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A woman from New York came to New Mexico to terminate her pregnancy at one of the nation's four late-term abortion clinics after she found out the fetus she had been carrying for more than eight months had severe brain abnormalities. There were complications during the abortion and the 26-year-old woman was rushed to the hospital with a ruptured uterus.
Nearly two years later, the intimate details of her medical treatment, her mental state, her religion and family status have become public as part of a state medical board probe that was initiated not by the patient, but by anti-abortion activists with Operation Rescue who aggressively monitor and file complaints based on 911 calls made from abortion clinics.
On Thursday, the New Mexico Medical Board is expected to decide whether to revoke the license of or otherwise discipline Dr. Shelley Sella, a former colleague of slain Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller and one of the few doctors in the country who still openly performs third-term abortions. It's a case that highlights Operation Rescue's aggressive attempts to halt abortions and raises questions about whether the tactics are an invasion of privacy when patient records become public.
The case also highlights the sensitivity surrounding late-term abortions, which several states have made illegal in recent years. Supporters of abortion rights say the procedures are rare and used only in cases where the health of the mother or child is in danger. Abortion opponents say they are a danger to mothers and painful for the unborn baby. The procedure involves injecting the fetus with a drug to stop its heartbeat and administering drugs over the next three to four days to prepare the cervix and induce labor.
Sella gave the woman drugs commonly used in late-term abortions, drugs that, according to transcripts in the case, are known to potentially cause contractions strong enough to cause uterine ruptures in women who previously have delivered a baby through cesarean section, as this woman had.
FBI: No other explosives found near Ala. bunker where man held boy; captor's body removed
Bomb technicians have found no more explosive devices after an arduous search of the rural Alabama property of Jimmy Lee Dykes, the gunman who shot dead a school bus driver and held a boy captive for nearly a week in a rigged underground bunker.
Dykes was killed Monday by SWAT team members during a gunfight when officers raided the bunker and rescued the kindergartner unharmed, officials said. With the work of bomb experts concluded, Dykes' body could be safely removed from the bunker, the FBI said.
An autopsy was planned Thursday and the FBI said evidence-collection and review teams had already begun the next phase — sifting the crime scene.
The FBI said after the raid that the 65-year-old man had planted one explosive artifact in a ventilation pipe used by negotiators to communicate with him in his underground bunker in the bucolic farming community of Midland City. The agency said a second device was found in the roughly 6-by-8-foot hand-dug bunker. Both were safely removed.
FBI Special Agent Paul Bresson said in an email late Wednesday that the technicians who scoured the 100-acre property in the days after the end of the standoff had "completed their work and cleared the crime scene."
9 dead, including child, after tsunami swept into Solomon Islands in South Pacific
SYDNEY (AP) — Aid workers struggled to reach remote, tsunami-ravaged villages in the Solomon Islands on Thursday, as the death toll rose with more bodies found in wrecked homes and debris in the South Pacific island chain.
At least nine people, including a child, were killed when a powerful earthquake set off a small tsunami that sent 1.5-meter (4 foot, 11-inch) waves roaring inland on Santa Cruz Island, in the eastern Solomons, on Wednesday. Around 100 homes across five villages were damaged or destroyed.
The waves proved deadly for five elderly villagers and a child, who weren't fast enough to outrun the rushing water, said George Herming, a spokesman for the prime minister. Three more bodies were found Thursday, but Herming said details of how those victims died were not immediately available.
Several others are missing and dozens of strong aftershocks were keeping frightened villagers from returning to the coast, Herming said.
"People are still scared of going back to their homes because there's nothing left, so they are residing in temporary shelters on higher ground," Herming said.
Hong Kong leader's policy vow highlights plight of poor living in cages, cubicles amid wealth
HONG KONG (AP) — For many of the richest people in Hong Kong, one of Asia's wealthiest cities, home is a mansion with an expansive view from the heights of Victoria Peak. For some of the poorest, like Leung Cho-yin, home is a metal cage.
The 67-year-old former butcher pays 1,300 Hong Kong dollars ($167) a month for one of about a dozen wire mesh cages resembling rabbit hutches crammed into a dilapidated apartment in a gritty, working-class West Kowloon neighborhood.
The cages, stacked on top of each other, measure 1.5 square meters (16 square feet). To keep bedbugs away, Leung and his roommates put thin pads, bamboo mats, even old linoleum on their cages' wooden planks instead of mattresses.
"I've been bitten so much I'm used to it," said Leung, rolling up the sleeve of his oversized blue fleece jacket to reveal a red mark on his hand. "There's nothing you can do about it. I've got to live here. I've got to survive," he said as he let out a phlegmy cough.
Some 100,000 people in the former British colony live in what's known as inadequate housing, according to the Society for Community Organization, a social welfare group. The category also includes apartments subdivided into tiny cubicles or filled with coffin-sized wood and metal sleeping compartments as well as rooftop shacks. They're a grim counterpoint to the southern Chinese city's renowned material affluence.
Deep below NYC, workers expanding nation's biggest transit hub; $15B in new tracks, tunnels
NEW YORK (AP) — Sixteen stories below Grand Central Terminal, an army of workers is blasting through bedrock to create a new commuter rail concourse with more floor space than New Orleans' Superdome, just one of three audacious projects going on beneath New York City's streets to expand what's already the nation's biggest mass transit system.
But even with blasting and machinery grinding through the rock day and night, most New Yorkers are blithely unaware of the construction or the eerie underworld that includes a massive, eight-story cavern, miles of tunnels and watery, gravel-filled pits.
"I look at it and I'm in wonder, I'm in awe," says engineer Michael Horodniceanu, president of capital construction for the state Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "I feel like when I went to Rome and entered St. Peter's Basilica for the first time. ... I looked at it and said, 'Wow, how did they do that?'"
In New York, they hauled out so much rocky debris from under Grand Central that it could have covered Central Park almost a foot deep, Horodniceanu says.
Together, the three projects will cost an estimated $15 billion. And when they're all completed, tentatively in 2019, they will bring subway and commuter rail service to vast, underserved stretches of the city, particularly the far East and West sides of Manhattan.
Ex-LA police officer wanted in 2 killings was represented by victim's father in firing hearing
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police have launched a manhunt for a former comrade suspected of gunning down a college basketball coach, her fiance and leaving a rambling manifesto that threatened more violence.
Former Los Angeles police officer officer Christopher Jordan Dorner is the suspect in the killings of Monica Quan and her fiancé, Keith Lawrence, who were found shot to death in their car at a parking structure Sunday night, Irvine police Chief David L. Maggard said at a news conference Wednesday night.
Dorner, 33, implicated himself in the killings with a multi-page "manifesto" that he wrote that included threats against several people, including members of the LAPD, police said. They gave no further details on the document or its contents.
Autopsies showed that Quan and Lawrence were killed by multiple gunshot wounds in the parking structure at their condominium in Irvine, Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said earlier Wednesday.
Quan, 28, was an assistant women's basketball coach at Cal State Fullerton. Lawrence, 27, was a public safety officer at the University of Southern California.