South Korean, US troops launch military drills that North Korea has threatened war over
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North and South Korea staged dueling war games Monday as threatening rhetoric from the rivals rose to the highest level since North Korea rained artillery shells on a South Korean island in 2010.
Enraged over the South's joint military drills with the United States and recent U.N. sanctions, Pyongyang has piled threat on top of threat, including vows to launch a nuclear strike on the U.S. and to scrap the nearly 60-year-old armistice that ended the Korean War. Seoul has responded with tough talk of its own and has placed its troops on high alert.
North Korea's main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, reported that the armistice was nullified Monday as Pyongyang had previously announced. The North followed through on another promise Monday, shutting down a Red Cross hotline that the North and South used for general communication and to discuss aid shipments and separated families' reunions.
The 11-day military drills that started Monday involve 10,000 South Korean and about 3,000 American troops. Those coincide with two months of separate U.S.-South Korean field exercises that began March 1.
Also continuing are large-scale North Korean drills that Seoul says involve the army, navy and air force. The South Korean defense ministry said there have been no military activities it considers suspicious.
Authorities say speed is key factor in SUV crash that killed 6 teens, injured 2 others in Ohio
WARREN, Ohio (AP) — Investigators were focused on speeding as a key factor in the crash of an overcrowded sport utility vehicle carrying eight teenagers, six of them killed when it crashed into a guardrail and flipped over into a swampy pond.
While citing an unspecified "high rate" of speed, investigators wouldn't speculate on whether alcohol or drugs were involved in the crash about 7 a.m. Sunday on a two-lane road snugged between guardrails just south of this industrial community in Ohio community.
"I can't believe you're gone," Mariah Bryant, 12, wrote in a message taped to a stuffed bear at the scene in memory of her half-brother, Daylan Ray, 15, who was killed.
"I love and miss you so much," said the message, which drew a steady stream of onlookers. The bear was part of a growing memorial of stuffed animals at the roadside.
The Honda Passport veered off the left side of a road and overturned about 60 miles east of Cleveland, State Highway Patrol Lt. Anne Ralston said. Investigators say it came to rest upside down in the swamp and sank with five of the victims trapped inside. A sixth, who was thrown from the SUV during the crash, was found under it when the vehicle was taken out of the water.
Analysis: Iran, Palestinian talks, Netanyahu ties to dominate Obama trip to Israel
WASHINGTON (AP) — Three goals will dominate President Barack Obama's coming visit to Israel, his first as president: Convincing Israel and its leadership he means what he says about stopping Iran from building a nuclear weapon, mending a deeply troubled relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, in return, enticing Israel back to negotiations with the Palestinians.
Some of the cosmic stars of diplomacy and Middle East reality are lining up to make the visit a success. Others are not. Whatever the outcome, the visit that will also take Obama to the West Bank and Jordan will mark a significant step by the president deeper into a problem that has bedeviled American leaders for decades. Managing expectations, therefore, is essential in the remaining two weeks before Obama sets off on his mission.
Palestinian and Iranian issues dominated Obama's remarks in a White House briefing with representatives of major U.S. Jewish organizations on Thursday. The president said it would be premature to take a grand peace plan, according to a person at the session who requested anonymity to detail the private remarks. The person said Obama planned to tell Israelis that just wanting peace was not enough, but would ask what hard steps are they were willing to take.
On Iran and attempts to sidetrack its nuclear program, Obama said Tehran must be left with sufficient face-saving room to accept a diplomatic solution. The president said he was not "going to do extra chest-beating in public" during the visit to Israel just to convince people he is tough, according to the person at the meeting. .
He left the talking on that issue earlier in the week to Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke the Washington gathering of American Israel Public Affairs Committee, America's most powerful pro-Israel lobbying organization.
Indian police say man accused in New Delhi gang rape has committed suicide in jail
NEW DELHI (AP) — Police said a man on trial for the gang rape and fatal beating of a woman aboard a New Delhi bus committed suicide in an Indian jail Monday, but his lawyer and family allege he was killed.
Ram Singh, who was accused of driving the bus on which the 23-year-old student was raped by a group of six men in December, was under suicide watch at New Delhi's Tihar Jail when he hanged himself with his own clothes at about 5:30 a.m., police officials said. His death is raising further questions about a criminal justice system already being criticized for failing to protect the nation's women.
Singh and his four fellow defendants were facing the death penalty if convicted of the attack, which horrified Indians and set off national protests. A sixth accused is being tried and jailed separately because he is a juvenile.
India's deputy home minister, R. P. N. Singh, said an inquiry had been ordered into the suicide, according to the Press Trust of India.
Ram Singh's family and lawyer alleged foul play in his death.
AP IMPACT: Far from the front lines, combat stress troubles Air Force intelligence units
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (AP) — The gritty combat in Afghanistan is thousands of miles away.
But the analysts in the cavernous room at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia relive the explosions, the carnage and the vivid after-battle assessments of the bombings over and over again. The repeated exposure to death and destruction rolling across their computer screens is taking its own special toll on their lives.
The military has begun to grapple with the mental and emotional strains endured by personnel who may never come face to face with a Taliban insurgent, never dodge a roadside bomb or take fire, but who nevertheless may be responsible for taking human lives or putting their colleagues in mortal danger.
Now, for the first time, an Air Force chaplain and a psychologist are walking the floor of the operations center at Langley, offering counseling and stress relief to the airmen who scrutinize the war from afar.
Sitting at computer banks lining the expansive room, the Air Force analysts watch the video feeds streaming from surveillance drones and other military assets monitoring U.S. forces around the globe. Photos, radar data, full-motion video and electronically gathered intelligence flows across multiple screens. In 15- to 20-minute shifts, the airmen watch and interpret the information.
Japan marks 2 years since triple disaster amid slow progress on rebuilding, radiation cleanup
TOKYO (AP) — Japan marked the second anniversary on Monday of a devastating earthquake and tsunami that left nearly 19,000 people dead or missing and more than 300,000 people still displaced.
At memorial observances in Tokyo and in barren towns along the northeastern coast, those gathered bowed their heads in a moment of silence marking the moment, at 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, when the magnitude 9.0 earthquake — the strongest recorded in Japan's history — struck off the coast.
"I pray that the peaceful lives of those affected can resume as soon as possible," Emperor Akihito said at a somber service at Tokyo's National Theater.
Japan has struggled to clean up radiation from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, whose reactors melted down after its cooling systems were disabled by the tsunami, and rebuild lost communities along the coast. A new government elected in December has vowed faster action, but has yet to devise a post-disaster energy strategy — a central issue for its struggling economy.
About half of those displaced are evacuees from areas near the nuclear plant. Hundreds of them filed a lawsuit Monday demanding compensation for their suffering and losses.
NYPD program patrols inside private buildings; residents say they're unfairly stopped
NEW YORK (AP) — Jay Victorino was standing outside his mother's apartment when he was grabbed by police, and he says if she hadn't come downstairs to identify him he would've been arrested on a trespassing charge.
That's because his mother's South Bronx building is one of thousands of private dwellings patrolled by the New York Police Department under a program known as Operation Clean Halls.
Victorino, 28, has mixed feelings about the program — on one hand, he has seen his neighborhood become safer. On the other, he doesn't think it's right to be targeted.
"I don't want to be stopped," he said. "But I also don't want something bad to happen to my family. It's not easy to say what the right answer is. ... It's not a perfect world."
His ambivalence was echoed by dozens of people around the city who live in buildings enrolled in the program, the only one of its kind in a major U.S. city that gives police standing permission to roam the halls of private buildings. Some residents say they feel safer, while others say they believe they are being harassed at home and, in some cases, illegally stopped and arrested. More than a dozen residents have filed a federal lawsuit saying their civil rights were violated.
US citing national security in censoring public records more than ever since Obama's election
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government, led by the Pentagon and CIA, censored in the name of national security files that the public requested last year under the Freedom of Information Act more often than at any time since President Barack Obama took office, according to a new analysis by The Associated Press.
Overall, the Obama administration last year answered its highest number of requests so far for copies of government documents, emails, photographs and more, and it slightly reduced its backlog of requests from previous years. But it more often cited legal provisions allowing the government to keep records or parts of its records secret, especially a rule intended to protect national security.
The AP's analysis showed the government released all or portions of the information that citizens, journalists, businesses and others sought at about the same rate as the previous three years. It turned over all or parts of the records in about 65 percent of requests. It fully rejected more than one-third of requests, a slight increase over 2011, including cases when it couldn't find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the request was determined to be improper.
The government's responsiveness under the FOIA is widely viewed as a barometer of the federal offices' transparency. Under the law, citizens and foreigners can compel the government to turn over copies of federal records for zero or little cost. Anyone who seeks information through the law is generally supposed to get it unless disclosure would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose business secrets or confidential decision-making in certain areas.
The AP's review comes at the start of the second term for Obama, who promised during his first week in office that the nation's signature open-records law would be "administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails." The review examined figures from the largest federal departments and agencies. Sunday was the start of Sunshine Week, when news organizations promote open government and freedom of information.
Hagel meets Karzai after security threats, political friction
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel encountered political tension with the Afghan president and a series of security problems during his first visit to Afghanistan as Pentagon chief, but he met privately with President Hamid Karzai and says they discussed the key issues.
Hagel says he understands that Karzai faces political pressures as the war winds down.
"I think he understands where we are and where we've been, and hopefully where we're going together," Hagel told reporters, but he declined to detail their talks.
Hagel is disputing Karzai's accusations that the U.S. and the Taliban are working in concert to show that violence in the country will worsen if most coalition troops leave.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph Dunford, also rejected the charges Karzai made Sunday as "categorically false."
Batman's mythology, history getting new boost from DC Entertainment, writer Scott Snyder
Batman's transformative years are getting a few new twists.
DC Entertainment is going back into Bruce Wayne's past to see how he began his transformation from socialite with money to the scourge of Gotham's criminal underworld.
But key elements of the character's history are staying the same — the murder of Wayne's parents, for example — says Scott Snyder, the writer of "Batman" since its relaunch debuted in 2011.
"It's not 'let's redo the origin,'" he said Monday. "It's time for a new story showing how Batman became who he is in the New 52."
Instead, Snyder said readers will see how the crime fighter found his calling and what challenges he faced when first donning the costume of the Dark Knight.