Advisers in Obama administration divided over how to respond to violence in Egypt and Syria
WASHINGTON (AP) — Persistent violence in Syria and Egypt has sharply divided senior advisers in the Obama administration over a moral dilemma: How far should the U.S. go to stop the killing when its actions could lead to war with Syria or damage relations with Egypt?
Hundreds have died in Egypt during protests brought on by the military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi. In Syria, allegations of chemical weapons attacks on civilians by the government of President Bashar Assad come amid reports of hundreds more victims in a 2-year-old civil war that, by U.N. estimates, has already killed more than 100,000.
Pentagon leaders, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have argued for moderation in the U.S. response. They say that cutting off aid to Egypt would threaten key national security agreements and could rattle the peace between Egypt and Israel. They suggest that such action would cost the U.S. its leverage and even risk losing access to the Suez Canal and permission for military flights over Egypt.
Others in the administration, among them close advisers in the West Wing, have countered that the U.S. should take more decisive action to curtail the violence in Egypt as well as the sectarian war in Syria. So far, the White House has taken only incremental steps. In that vein, it's expected to announce in the coming days the suspension of another major weapons shipment to Egypt.
The lack of a unified position — both within the Obama administration and on Capitol Hill — is giving President Barack Obama time and space for his cautious approach. But that is riling those who believe that the U.S. should put stronger pressure on Egypt's military and take military action against Assad's government.
Nasdaq breakdown ratchets up pressure to act to avoid future disruptions, manage crises
WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest high-tech disruption in the financial markets ratchets up the pressure on Nasdaq and other electronic exchanges to take steps to avoid future breakdowns and manage them better if they do occur.
The three-hour trading outage on the Nasdaq stock exchange Thursday also can be expected to trigger new rounds of regulatory scrutiny on computer-driven trading. Investors' shaky confidence in the markets also took another hit.
Questions about potential dangers of the super-fast electronic trading systems that now dominate the nation's stock markets ripple again through Wall Street and Washington. Stock trading now relies heavily on computer systems that exploit split-penny price differences. Stocks can be traded in fractions of a second, often by automated programs. That makes the markets more vulnerable to technical failures.
The Nasdaq episode cracked the midday calm of a quiet summer day on Wall Street, sending brokers and traders scrambling to figure out what went wrong.
The shutdown appeared to occur in an orderly fashion and didn't upset other parts of the stock market.
Manning asks to be known as a woman named Chelsea, creating potential problems for military
WASHINGTON (AP) — By asking to be known as a woman named Chelsea, Bradley Manning has created a host of possible challenges for the military as the soldier began serving a 35-year prison sentence for giving secrets to WikiLeaks.
Manning's gender-identity struggle — a sense of being a woman in a man's body — was brought up by the defense at the court-martial, and a photo of the soldier in a blond wig and lipstick was submitted as evidence.
But the latest twist, announced Thursday, surprised many and confronted the Pentagon with questions about where and how the Army private is to be imprisoned.
The former Army intelligence analyst disclosed the decision in a statement provided to NBC's "Today" show.
"As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible," the statement read.
Beastly fire disrupts Idaho vacation heaven; smoke casts shadow over economy
SUN VALLEY, Idaho (AP) — For rockers Huey Lewis and the News, smoke from the massive Sun Valley, Idaho, wildfire known as "the Beast" had band members who famously worried about the heart of rock and roll worrying about their lungs.
They canceled their show, as did the novelists, poets and journalists who convene in this vacation region each summer for a writer's convention. Meanwhile, squadrons of private aircraft whisked the affluent off to locales with cleaner air.
With its mountain backdrop, Sun Valley is normally a playground for the rich, the famous, for super-fit pursuers of outdoor sports or the Big Wood River's feisty brook trout. To many, it's heaven. But "the Beast" has caused disruptions in the sun-basking, fun-loving lifestyle, and the economy.
"This is the worst I've seen it," said Brad Wood, who helps run a shop that rents bikes at the posh Sun Valley Lodge. Wood said he's sent four employees home until business picks up: On Thursday, only five of the 350 bikes they rent were out.
The blaze is among about 50 large fires burning nationwide.
UN says child refugees fleeing Syria violence tops 1 million mark
GENEVA (AP) — The number of registered child refugees fleeing Syria's violence has topped the 1 million mark in another grim milestone of the deepening conflict, two U.N. agencies said Friday.
Roughly half of all the nearly 2 million registered refugees from Syria are children, and some 740,000 of those are under the age of 11, according to the U.N. refugee and children's agencies.
"This one millionth child refugee is not just another number," said Anthony Lake, the head of UNICEF, the U.N. children's agency. "This is a real child ripped from home, maybe even from a family, facing horrors we can only begin to comprehend."
The children's ordeals are not over once they escape Syria, said Antonio Guterres, the head of the Office for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, known as UNHCR.
"Even after they have crossed a border to safety, they are traumatized, depressed and in need of a reason for hope," he said.
No verdict yet: Jury to begin 2nd day of deliberations in case of Fort Hood rampage suspect
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — A military jury will begin its second day of deliberations Friday in the case of a 2009 mass shooting at this sprawling military post — even though the Army psychiatrist accused of gunning down 13 people and wounding more than 30 others has admitted responsibility and mounted no defense during his trial.
Maj. Nidal Hasan is acting as his own attorney but declined to call any witnesses or give a closing argument. In his opening statement nearly two weeks ago, the 42-year-old said evidence would "clearly show" he was the shooter. Hasan described himself as a soldier who had "switched sides."
Jurors broke Thursday evening after nearly three and a half hours of deliberations. They asked one question regarding testimony of the police officer who ended the Nov. 5, 2009, attack by shooting Hasan, leaving him paralyzed. Jurors will resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Friday.
Hasan, an American-born Muslim, faces numerous counts of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder in the deadliest attack ever on a U.S. military base. Prosecutors have pushed for the death penalty, and military attorneys assigned to Hasan — who have remained on standby throughout the trial as he goes it alone — have suggested he wants to be put to death.
In order for Hassan to face the death penalty, the jury's 11 men and two women will have to find him unanimously guilty of at least one count of premeditated murder and another charge. The military court system hasn't executed an active-duty U.S. soldier since 1961.
From tinkerers to engineers, 'Hyperloop' transportation concept gains fans if not backers
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk urged the public to polish sketch plans he released last week for a "Hyperloop" that would shoot capsules full of people at the speed of sound through elevated tubes connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco.
From tinkerers to engineers, the race is on.
A Utah firm hustled out a model using a 3-D printer. A Pennsylvania company is testing a virtual Hyperloop with sophisticated computer software. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants ad space inside capsules, and in San Francisco, enthusiasts interested in "making Hyperloop a reality" will meet over beers.
Meanwhile, Musk himself has shelved the project and returned to his established future-is-here transportation ventures: luxury electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. and the rocket-building company SpaceX.
In principle, the Hyperloop is doable.
NY sanctuaries take in animals escaping urban slaughterhouses; beautiful reward for survivors
NEW YORK (AP) — Winston escaped death to find a piglet's paradise.
The little piggy found wandering this summer along a bustling Queens boulevard is among hundreds of animals — including cows, sheep, goats and chickens — who apparently managed to flee in recent years from New York City's growing number of urban slaughter markets.
Escaping to the streets amid honking cars and busy pedestrians comes with a beautiful reward those lucky enough to survive: a trip to an animal sanctuary in the wide open spaces north of the city where they can live out their days without fear of becoming someone's dinner.
"None of them come to us friendly," says Susie Coston, director of the Farm Sanctuary, which has taken in more than 500 farm animals from the city in the last decade. "They know what blood smells like and they're very scared and high-strung, running to get away."
The case of Winston, so named by newspaper readers who followed his fate, is hardly unusual. The little porker had apparently been on the lam for days in an area with many storefront slaughterhouses before he was caught by city animal-control officers. They turned him over to the sanctuary, and his home now is a five-hour drive and a world away, on a 175-acre farm in Watkins Glen, where he is free to frolic.
A health initiative worth its salt? Philly works to reduce sodium in Chinese takeout food
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Amar Jones knows that high-salt Chinese takeout isn't good for his high blood pressure. But the lure of shrimp with broccoli is hard to resist.
So he was heartened recently to hear that his favorite dish now has 20 percent less sodium thanks to a citywide effort to battle hypertension — a major risk factor for heart disease.
"People might think I'm being extreme, but you're probably going to save some lives," Jones said. "You might save my life."
Organizers have recruited more than 200 eateries across Philadelphia for the city's Healthy Chinese Takeout Initiative, which aims to reduce the food's salt content by 10 percent to 15 percent.
Participants have made several changes, such as flavoring orders with chilies or garlic instead of sodium; using less sauce; distributing soy sauce packets only on demand; and posting nutrition information.
A month after being suspended, Brewers slugger Braun admits drug use during 2011 NL MVP season
Ryan Braun finally said it: He took performance-enhancing drugs.
A month after suddenly abandoning his claims of innocence and accepting a 65-game suspension from Major League Baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers slugger admitted he took a cream and a lozenge containing banned substances while rehabilitating an injury during his 2011 NL MVP season.
In a statement released by the Brewers on Thursday night, Braun took responsibility for his actions. He also apologized to many people, including the sample collector he castigated after an arbitrator overturned the outfielder's suspension from a 2011 positive test.
"I have no one to blame but myself. I know that over the last year and a half I made some serious mistakes, both in the information I failed to share during my arbitration hearing and the comments I made to the press afterwards," Braun said. "I have disappointed the people closest to me."
Still, his lengthy act of self-reproach was missing several key details. Among them: The five-time All-Star doesn't say who gave him the PEDs or where they came from; he doesn't reveal the banned substance in the products; he doesn't say if he knew the cream and lozenge were tainted at the time he took them.