Obama administration acknowledges 4 American citizens killed in drone strikes since 2009
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that four American citizens have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen since 2009. The disclosure to Congress comes on the eve of a major national security speech by President Barack Obama in which he plans to pledge more transparency to Congress in his counterterrorism policy.
It was already known that three Americans had been killed in U.S. drones strikes in counterterrorism operations overseas, but Attorney General Eric Holder disclosed details that had remained secret and also that a fourth American had been killed.
In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Holder said that the government targeted and killed U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and that the U.S. "is aware" of the killing of three others who were not targets of counterterror operations.
Al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric, was killed in a drone strike in September 2011 in Yemen. The other two known cases are Samir Khan, who was killed in the same drone strike as al-Awlaki and al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, a Denver native, who also was killed in Yemen.
The newly revealed case is that of Jude Kenan Mohammed, one of eight men indicted by federal authorities in 2009, accused of being part of a plot to attack the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va. Before he could be arrested, Mohammad fled the country to join jihadi fighters in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where he was among those killed by a U.S. drone.
Man shot to death in Fla. while being questioned in Boston Marathon bombing investigation
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A Chechen immigrant was shot to death by authorities in central Florida early Wednesday after he turned violent while being questioned about his ties to one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, officials said.
Ibragim Todashev, a 27-year-old mixed martial arts fighter, was fatally shot at his Orlando townhouse during a meeting with an FBI agent and two Massachusetts state troopers, authorities said. The agent was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.
Three law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Todashev had lunged at the FBI agent with a knife. However, two of those officials said later in the day it was no longer clear what had happened. The third official had not received any new information.
The FBI gave no details on why it was interested in Todashev except to say that he was being questioned as part of the Boston investigation. However, two officials briefed on the investigation said he had implicated himself as having been involved in a 2011 triple-slaying in the Boston suburb of Waltham that authorities believe may have been connected to one of the men behind the bombings.
Several of Todashev's former roommates who were questioned said that he knew the older bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, from mixed martial arts fighting in Boston and that the FBI was asking about him.
10 Things to Know for Thursday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:
1. FOUR AMERICAN CITIZENS KILLED BY DRONES
The deaths have taken place in Pakistan and Yemen since 2009, the Obama administration reveals.
2 UK government officials: Signs London attack was motivated by radical Islam
LONDON (AP) — Two men with butcher knives hacked another to death Wednesday near a London military barracks and one then went on video to explain the crime — shouting political statements, gesturing with bloodied hands and waving a meat cleaver. Soon after, arriving police shot and wounded the unidentified assailants and took them into custody.
The brutal daylight attack galvanized this city and raised fears that terrorism had returned to London.
Authorities did not identify the victim by name, but French President Francois Hollande referred to him as a "soldier" at a news conference in Paris with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron would not confirm that, but British media reported that the victim was wearing a shirt in support of troops and Britain's Ministry of Defense said it was investigating whether a U.K. soldier was involved.
Calling it "an appalling murder," Cameron said there were "strong indications" it was an act of terrorism, and two other officials said there were signs the attack was motivated by radical Islam.
The Cabinet's emergency committee was immediately convened and security was stepped up at army barracks across London. Cameron cut short his Paris trip to return to London and his office said he would chair another session Thursday.
IRS official in targeting probe says she did nothing wrong — then says no more, taking the 5th
WASHINGTON (AP) — At the center of a political storm, an Internal Revenue Service supervisor whose agents targeted conservative groups swore Wednesday she did nothing wrong, broke no laws and never lied to Congress. Then she refused to answer lawmakers' further questions, citing her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself.
In one of the most electric moments since the IRS controversy erupted nearly two weeks ago, Lois Lerner unwaveringly — but briefly — defended herself before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. But she would say no more, citing legal advice in the face of a federal investigation.
Members of Congress have angrily complained that Lerner and other high-ranking IRS officials did not inform them that conservative groups were singled out, even though lawmakers repeatedly asked the IRS about it after hearing complaints from local tea party groups.
The Justice Department has launched a criminal probe of the murky events over the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns, saying it is looking into potential civil rights violations. Top IRS officials say Lerner didn't tell them for nearly a year after she learned that agents working under her had improperly singled out conservative groups for additional scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.
Under unrelenting criticism — most forcefully from Republicans but also from Democrats and people outside politics — administration officials from President Barack Obama on down have denounced the targeting as inappropriate and inexcusable.
'The life of the party': 3rd grader who loved to sing among the young Okla. tornado victims
MOORE, Okla. (AP) — Nicknamed "The Wall," 8-year-old Kyle Davis loved soccer and going to Monster Truck exhibitions at the fairgrounds with his grandfather. JaNae Hornsby, 9, loved to draw, sing, and be a big sister and cousin to her younger relatives.
The two were among the young victims of Monday's monstrous tornado, their small bodies pulled from the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary School after it was reduced to a massive heap of bricks and twisted metal. Twenty-two others were killed, including five other 9-year-olds at the one-story building.
As the ominous funnel cloud began its 17-mile path, Kyle took shelter in the school's gymnasium with dozens of other students, his grandfather Marvin Dixon said Wednesday.
"He was in the position that the teacher told them to be in —crouched down with their hands over their heads," Dixon said. "The medical examiner said either some big rock or beam or something fell right on the back of his neck. He said he died instantly."
Dixon counted his grandson among the lucky ones. The medical examiner reported the six other children who died at the school suffocated after being buried under a mass of bricks, steel and other materials as the building collapsed. Dixon said a morgue worker told him some of the children who suffocated were huddled in one of the school's bathrooms.
Kerry, US allies push peace talks on Syrian rebels, while promising them more aid
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — The U.S. and several key allies looked again Wednesday for a strategy to end Syria's civil war, their united efforts unable at the moment to stem the Assad regime's military gains and Washington still unwilling to join those providing the rebels with lethal military aid.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry allowed that President Barack Obama won't send American troops to Syria. But he made clear that more aid to the rebels would be coming if the regime refuses to cooperate with an international effort — to be put together in June in Geneva — to form a transitional government.
"In the event that we can't find that way forward, in the event that the Assad regime is unwilling to negotiate Geneva in good faith, we will also talk about our continued support, growing support for opposition in order to permit them to continue to fight for the freedom of their country," Kerry told a news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
They later joined nine of their colleagues from Europe and the Arab world in the Jordanian capital of Amman, alongside Syrian opposition leaders George Sabra and Gen. Salim Idris to plot a path forward. There, the U.S. and its partners sought to convince Syria's rebels of the need to participate in any peace effort.
"The only alternative to a negotiated settlement," Kerry told the larger meeting, "is more killing, is more innocent civilian deaths, more chaos, more instability in part of the world that has already suffered too much."
CEO compensation from stock keeps growing as companies respond to shareholder activists
CEO pay has been going in one direction for the past three years: up.
The head of a typical large public company made $9.7 million in 2012, a 6.5 percent increase from a year earlier that was aided by a rising stock market, according to an analysis by The Associated Press using data from Equilar, an executive pay research firm.
CEO pay, which fell two years straight during the Great Recession but rose 24 percent in 2010 and 6 percent in 2011, has never been higher.
Companies say they need to pay CEOs well so they can attract the best talent, and that this is ultimately in the interest of shareholders. But shareholder activists and some corporate governance experts say many CEOs are being paid far above what is reasonable or what their performance merits.
Pay for all U.S. workers rose 1.1 percent in 2010, 1.2 percent in 2011 and 1.6 percent last year — not enough to keep up with inflation. The median wage in the U.S. was about $39,900 in 2012, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Minnesota teenager whose song "Clouds" became Internet sensation dies after bone cancer fight
LAKELAND, Minn. (AP) — When high school student Zach Sobiech learned he didn't have much longer to live, his mother suggested he write letters to tell his loved ones goodbye. Instead, the Minnesota teenager turned to writing music — and his farewell song, "Clouds," became a YouTube sensation that has attracted more than 4 million views.
Other musicians have covered the tune, and it inspired a celebrity video on YouTube. "Clouds" was even listed No. 1 on the iTunes Top 10 list on Wednesday — two days after Sobiech died after battling bone cancer.
His mother, Laura Sobiech, said on the CaringBridge website that her son was surrounded by family and his girlfriend when he died at his home in Lakeland, an eastern suburb of St. Paul. He had recently turned 18.
Sobiech was being remembered not only for his music, but also for the way he lived. John Hallberg, the chief executive of the Children's Cancer Research Fund, said Wednesday that Sobiech had a positive attitude and approached his diagnosis with strength and grace.
"You don't have to find out you're dying to start living," Sobiech said in a short video about him titled, "My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech," which also has been viewed more than 4 million times since it was posted to YouTube two weeks ago.
Iginla, Neal each score twice, Penguins beat Senators 7-3 to take 3-1 series lead
OTTAWA (AP) — Jarome Iginla and James Neal each scored twice and the Pittsburgh Penguins routed the Ottawa Senators 7-3 on Wednesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis also scored for Pittsburgh, and Tomas Vokoun made 30 saves. Down 2-1 after the first period, the Penguins scored twice in a 40-second span early in the second and added four goals in the first 10 minutes in the third.
Milan Michalek, Kyle Turris and Daniel Alfredsson scored for Ottawa. Senators goalie Craig Anderson was benched after Pittsburgh's sixth goal, and Robin Lehner finished the game.
Game 5 is Friday night in Pittsburgh.
The Senators, coming off a double-overtime victory Sunday night in Game 3, opened the scoring on Michalek's short-handed goal at 2:29 of the first period. With defenseman Sergei Gonchar in the penalty box, Alfredsson fed the puck up the middle to a streaking Michalek, who broke through the defense and beat Vokoun low on the glove side for Ottawa's second short-handed goal of the series.