Investigators focus on erratic behavior of Navy Yard gunman in weeks before deadly shooting
WASHINGTON (AP) — Investigators have been focusing on the erratic behavior of a former Navy reservist who law enforcement officials say was grappling with paranoia and had reported hearing voices and being followed before he gunned down 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard this week.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said Wednesday that 34-year-old Aaron Alexis visited two hospitals in the weeks before the Monday morning rampage but denied that he was depressed or having thoughts of harming himself or others.
Alexis, who died in a police shootout after the rampage, complained of insomnia during an Aug. 23 emergency room visit to the VA Medical Center in Providence, R.I. He was given sleep medication and advised to follow up with a doctor. He made a similar visit five days later to the VA hospital in Washington, when he again complained of not being able to sleep because of his work schedule. His medication was refilled.
Alexis appeared "alert and oriented" during the visits and denied feeling depressed or anxious or wanting to do harm, the VA said in a statement presented to lawmakers Wednesday.
Two weeks before his ER visit, for instance, he complained to police in Rhode Island that people were talking to him through the walls and ceilings of his hotel room and sending microwave vibrations into his body to deprive him of sleep. Navy officials said the Newport police reported the incident to officers at the base security office, but nothing more was done about it because he did not appear to be a threat to himself or anyone else at the time.
Debating the Fed's decision: Does the US economy still need so much help from bond purchases?
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve's decision to postpone any pullback in its economic stimulus immediately ignited a debate: Was the Fed right or wrong to delay the inevitable?
Investors had anticipated a small cut in the Fed's $85 billion in monthly bond purchases, which are intended to keep long-term borrowing rates low to encourage spending. A pullback would have signaled that the Fed felt the economy had shown steady improvement.
Was the Fed right to hold off? Here's the case for slowing the purchases — and the case against it.
— THE CASE FOR SLOWING BOND PURCHASES:
If not now, when? That's what many economists were asking.
Syrian official: Roadside bomb targets bus in central province, killing 19
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A Syrian official says a roadside bomb has targeted a bus in the country's central province, killing 19 people.
The official at the governor's office in Homs province says Thursday's explosion in the village of Jbourin also wounded four people on the bus. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
The village is predominantly Alawite, a minority sect to which President Bashar Assad belongs, but it also has Christians and Sunnis. It was not immediately clear why the bus was targeted.
Syria's civil war, which has left more than 100,000 dead since the crisis erupted in March 2011, has taken increasingly sectarian overtones. Most of the rebels trying to overthrow Assad belong to the majority Sunni sect.
Christians of southern Egyptian town get no respite after army wrest control from militants
DALGA, Egypt (AP) — Islamic militants on motorbikes drive by Sameer Hanna Tanyous's home in this southern Egyptian town and make a chilling gesture — running their fingers across their throats. Others, he says, shout warnings that security forces won't be there forever to protect him and other Christians.
This week, a large contingent of troops and police rolled into Dalga, backed by helicopter gunships, breaking the hold of Islamist hard-liners who seized control of the town of 120,000 in early July in a spasm of violence after the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. Their grip terrorized the town's Christians, as hard-liners torched and looted their homes, businesses and churches.
But the relief felt by the town's estimated 20,000 Christians was short-lived. They fear the troops will stay only long enough to make some arrests — and once they're gone, the backlash from militants against them will be even worse.
"We are too scared to talk even now with all this hokouma (government) in town," Tanyous, a 40-year-old door-to-door salesman, said at the house of a local Coptic Orthodox priest. "One day, all this police and army will go and we will have no one on our side."
Tanyous fled his home when a Muslim mob looted and torched it in mid-August, taken in with his wife and children by a Muslim family. Emboldened by the troops' presence, they returned this week to live in the burned-out, windowless husk. Immediately, the threats began, he said.
Egyptian security forces encircle Islamist stronghold near Cairo, senior officer killed
CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian security forces backed by helicopters raided on Thursday a town on the outskirts of Cairo known to be an Islamist stronghold, exchanging fire with suspected militants who killed a senior police officer.
The Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police, said Gen. Nabil Farrag, an aide to the security chief of Cairo's twin city of Giza, was shot dead when militants opened fire on security forces approaching the town of Kerdasa to drive off suspected Islamic militants. Egypt's official news agency blamed "terrorists and criminal elements" for his death.
Police arrested 32 suspects in house-to-house raids in Kerdasa, according to a security official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters. The interior ministry said Farrag was killed by gunmen firing from the rooftops of several schools and mosques they had taken over.
Thursday's assault on Kerdasa is the second major operation by the army and police against a militant stronghold. On Sunday, a large police and army contingent retook the town of Dalga south of Cairo, ending two months of Islamists' rule there.
The quick succession of the two major raids underline the resolve of the military-backed government to restore law and order throughout a country roiled by unrest and violence since the 2011 ouster of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
INFLUENCE GAME: Music, movie industries sound alarm on online piracy again, blame Google
WASHINGTON (AP) — The music and movie industries are sounding the alarm again on online piracy, saying illegal downloads are on the rise and search engines like Google aren't doing enough to stop them.
Entertainment executives say they have no intention of trying to revive failed legislation that would have imposed unprecedented regulations on Internet companies. That proposal last year prompted a fierce backlash from tech companies and activists who said it would damage the Internet as a free and open enterprise.
But the industry's top lobbyists returned to Capitol Hill this week to try to renew interest in online piracy, which has largely fallen off the public's radar. They are distributing to sympathetic lawmakers their own research on what they say are the growing perils of piracy — some of which is contested by Internet activists — and telling Congress that Google and other search engines aren't doing enough to redirect consumers away from known pirating sites.
The suggestion was that private talks between entertainment executives and Google on anti-piracy efforts had failed to produce a solution, prompting two lobbying giants — the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America — to make their case instead in news conferences and hearing rooms on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, while Google declined to comment.
"We invite Google and the other major search engines to sit down with us to formulate a plan that goes beyond promises of action and actually serves its intended purpose of deterring piracy and giving the legitimate marketplace an environment to thrive," RIAA Chairman Cary Sherman told a House panel on Wednesday.
Mexican officials say 58 are missing after landslide smashes into tiny mountain village
ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — Mexico's government said 58 people were missing after a massive landslide smashed through a tiny coffee-growing village deep in the country's southern mountains, where fresh waves of rain threatened to unleash more danger for rescue workers trying to evacuate the last residents from the isolated hamlet.
The storm that devastated Mexico's Pacific coast over the weekend regained strength Wednesday and became Hurricane Manuel, dumping rain on fishing villages on the coast of Sinaloa state. It is a third blow to a country still reeling from the one-two punch of Manuel's first landfall and Hurricane Ingrid on Mexico's eastern coast.
Federal officials raised the death toll from Manuel from 60 to 80 earlier Wednesday. They said they were not yet declaring the 58 dead in the village of La Pintada several hours north of Acapulco, but it appeared unlikely that they had survived.
"It's very likely that these 58 missing people lost their lives," Angel Aguirre, governor of storm-battered Guerrero state, told reporters.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Manuel was a Category 1 hurricane nearing Mexico's coast early Thursday and expected to produce 75 mph winds and between 5 and 10 inches of rain over the state of Sinaloa. Sinaloa state civil protection authorities said some areas were already flooding and dozens were evacuated in an area of small fishing villages.
Vehicles pulled from Oklahoma lake shed light on 2 cold cases, but questions still remain
FOSS, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma sheriff says the families of six people who have been missing for more than 40 years should be able to gain some closure with the discovery of cars and bones believed to be connected to the cases.
What still lingers, though, are questions about how the skeletal remains and two vehicles ended up submerged in Custer County's Foss Lake, said Sheriff Bruce Peoples. He's hopeful the answers will come, helping solve a pair of mysteries that have haunted residents for more than a generation.
"Now the family will know, and that's what we look at as an important part of our job," Peoples said. "It's going to close a very unhappy chapter in their lives, but nothing any worse than having those lingering questions and wondering what happened."
Were the victims in the two separate cold cases murdered and dumped in the lake about 100 miles west of Oklahoma City? Or did they take a wrong turn, drive off the edge of the boat ramp and end up submerged?
"It's way too early to tell at this point," Peoples said. "We'll treat it as a crime until we're able to determine it's a simple car wreck."
Showing confidence in their country's future, Afghans — male and female — flock to colleges
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Ten years ago, Roeen Rahmani and some friends spent $300 on an overhead projector and a rented room to teach a business course to Afghans emerging from civil war and Taliban rule. Nobody showed up for the first class.
Today, that initial effort has evolved into Kardan University, a private institution educating more than 8,000 students in programs ranging from political science to civil engineering. But for Rahmani, the school's chancellor, it's not enough.
"My vision is bigger than this," he says.
Rahmani's dreams of growth could easily come true if Afghanistan doesn't fall apart after foreign forces complete their withdrawal next year. Demand for higher education is soaring in the war-weary country, a striking vote of confidence in its future.
It's a remarkable trend in a nation where just 12 years ago the Taliban government barred girls from attending school and many educated Afghans were forced to flee. Some 7,870 students attended Afghan colleges before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001; today, the figure is up around 26-fold to almost 204,000, as many as a fifth of them women, according to the Ministry of Higher Education.
Ex-NFL player's NY home trashed by partying teens; now he's posting their tweets to out them
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Former NFL offensive lineman Brian Holloway initially thought the Twitter photos showing young people partying at his family's second home in upstate New York were a hoax. Then he saw pictures of teenagers standing on the dining room table he bought with his Super Bowl bonus.
Holloway's rural vacation home was trashed during a Labor Day weekend party attended by up to 400 teenagers. Holloway said the partiers caused at least $20,000 in damage, breaking windows and doors, punching holes in walls and spraying graffiti. He saw the whole thing unfold live on Twitter — and now he's using the teens' own posts to reveal their identities and to try to set them on a better path.
Holloway, who played offensive tackle for the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Raiders in the 1980s, said his 19-year-old son, a University of Southern Florida sophomore, alerted him to the party after receiving tweets about it the night of Aug. 31.
Holloway was at his home in Lutz, Fla., at the time and watched as more tweets about the party were posted, many of them accompanied by photos of young people drinking throughout his home in Stephentown, on the Massachusetts border 25 miles southeast of Albany.
"We were getting eyewitness reports of what was happening while it was happening. We couldn't believe what was going down," Holloway told The Associated Press.