Kenya mall siege: Militant group says hostages remain alive, fighters 'holding their ground'
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Hostages are being held alive inside an upscale Nairobi mall and the militant fighters who attacked the building are "still holding their ground" against government forces trying to end the siege, the Islamic extremist group said Tuesday.
In a new Twitter feed established Tuesday after previous ones were cut off, the the al-Qaida-linked rebel group al-Shabab said the attack that began Saturday and has claimed more than 60 lives so far was "far greater than how the Kenyans perceive it."
"There are countless number of dead bodies still scattered inside the mall, and the mujahideen are still holding their ground," the group claimed.
It added that the hostages are "still alive looking quite disconcerted but, nevertheless, alive."
The Kenyan police responded with a Twitter message of its own, urging people to ignore "enemy... propaganda" and assuring that the defense forces were continuing to "neutralize" the terrorist threat.
A brief look at the victims of the Kenya shopping mall attack
The victims of the attack on the upscale Westgate Mall in Kenya's capital were from around the world. Here are details about some of those who were killed or wounded.
Architect Ross Langdon worked in Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania, creating eco-lodges and socially sustainable tourism in ecologically sensitive locations. He said at a conference last year that he thought trying to adapt to one's environment was a better way to express respect for the communities in which he was working. "I thought it might be better to be like a chameleon — able to adapt and change and blend with our environment rather than conquer it," he said.
British media reported he was a dual national, though the Foreign Office did not identify British victims by name.
Report says shooter lied about arrest, debts during vetting for his secret security clearance
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Navy Yard shooter lied about a previous arrest and failed to disclose thousands of dollars in debts when he applied for a security clearance in the Navy.
Then federal investigators dismissed the omissions, and made one of their own — deleting any reference to Aaron Alexis' use of a gun in that arrest.
The gaps in his record eventually allowed him to work in the secure Navy building where he gunned down 12 workers last week, underscoring weaknesses with the clearance process that Navy officials are targeting for change.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus recommended Monday that all police reports — not just arrests or convictions — involving an individual must be included when a background check is done. He also recommended that the Navy enhance its management of sailor evaluations and fitness reports by assigning more senior officers to oversee them.
The Navy, in a report released Monday, revealed new details about Alexis' Navy service, including his failure to reveal the 2004 arrest over a parking disagreement in Seattle. And officials said the background report given to the Navy omitted the fact that he had shot out the tires of another person's car during that dispute.
Millions of Syrian children lack basic food, face malnutrition, warns international aid group
BEIRUT (AP) — As Syria's civil war rages into its third year, millions of children in the country are at risk of malnutrition and face severe food shortages, an international aid organization has warned.
Save the Children said four million Syrians — more than half of them children — are unable to produce or buy enough food.
Thousands are trapped in battle zones in and around Syria's major cities, such as Aleppo in the north and in the central city of Homs, cut off from access to all but the bare minimum foodstuffs needed to survive, the U.S.-based group said in a dramatic report released Monday.
Food shortages are being compounded by an explosion in prices for basic staples, the group said, adding that one in 20 children in areas around the capital of Damascus, is severely malnourished.
Ever since the conflict erupted in March 2011, leading aid groups have demanded that the warring sides in Syria — President Bashar Assad's forces and the rebels fighting to overthrow his regime — enable access to civilians trapped in the fighting. More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict and millions have been uprooted from their homes.
NYC's Bloomberg launches European city-innovation contest, extending his approach overseas
NEW YORK (AP) — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is offering European cities millions of dollars to be government groundbreakers, tapping his personal fortune to extend his cities-as-civic-laboratories campaign overseas as the end of his own tenure nears.
The billionaire businessman-turned-politician invited about 600 sizeable European cities Tuesday to compete for 9 million euros — about $12 million — in prizes, from his personal foundation, for novel plans to improve urban life.
The competition could signal how Bloomberg aims to maintain and broaden his impact on government after his 12-year tenure ends in December.
"I am a big believer in the power of cities to shape the future," Bloomberg said in a statement to The Associated Press ahead of a news conference at London City Hall. He said the contest would spotlight "bold ideas which can take root in Europe and spread around the world."
Modeled on a Bloomberg Philanthropies contest that awarded $9 million to five U.S. cities this year, the European competition seeks ideas that solve problems or make government more efficient or citizen-friendly.
Obama to address Iran, Syria in UN speech aimed at building on diplomatic opportunities
NEW YORK (AP) — Seeking to build on diplomatic opportunities, President Barack Obama is expected to signal his willingness to engage with the new Iranian government if Tehran makes nuclear concessions long sought by the U.S. and Western allies.
Obama, in a planned address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning, also will call on U.N. Security Council members to approve a resolution that would mandate consequences for Syria if it fails to cooperate with a plan to turn its chemical weapons stockpiles over to the international community.
The president's address will be closely watched for signs that he may meet later in the day with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, a moderate cleric who has been making friendly gestures toward the U.S. in recent weeks. Even a brief encounter would be significant given that the leaders of the U.S. and Iran haven't had face-to-face contact in more than 30 years.
U.S. officials say no meeting was planned, though they hadn't ruled out the possibility that one might be added. The most likely opportunity appeared to be at a U.N. leaders' lunch Tuesday.
Rouhani was scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly late Tuesday afternoon.
Iran's president faces no easy task in bid to ease Western sanctions
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Near Iran's border with Iraq, work crews are putting finishing touches on a petrochemical plant expected to pump out hundreds of tons a year of oil-based products that the country hopes can slip through the net of Western economic sanctions.
In Tehran's bazaar, merchants must rely on shadowy money transfer networks to make purchases abroad because Iran is blocked from global banking systems. Inflation is so high that prices can jump between breakfast and dinner.
The two sides of Iran under sanctions have come into sharper relief as the economic pain digs deeper — and the country's new president seeks ways to roll back the restrictions.
On one level, government planners are working hard to find workarounds against the embargoes on oil exports and banking, while insisting Iran's "resistance economy" can ride out anything the West can throw in its direction. But there is also the daily struggle and frustration faced by businesses and families as inflation heads toward 40 percent and unemployment, officially 13 percent but likely higher, climbs alongside it.
The broad challenges posed by sanctions shape President Hasan Rouhani's agenda this week at the U.N. General Assembly. He hopes to win promises to restart talks over Iran's nuclear program and to make the case to the U.S. and its allies that easing sanctions could bring rewards in the form of concessions and greater cooperation from Tehran.
Chicago police say 2 men charged in park shooting that injured 13 , including 3-year-old boy
CHICAGO (AP) — Two men have been charged in a mass shooting at a Chicago park that wounded 13 people, including a 3-year-old boy, but neither suspect is believed to have been a triggerman, according to police.
Byron Champ, 21, and Kewane Gatewood, 20, are charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm in the shooting Thursday night at Cornell Square Park on Chicago's southwest side, police said late Monday. The suspects' home towns were not revealed.
Authorities have said as many as three people opened fire on a basketball court in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. Among the injured were 3-year-old Deonta Howard, who is recovering from surgery after being shot near an ear, along with two teenagers.
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said Monday night in a statement that while the men played significant roles in the shooting, neither man was believed to have been a gunman in the incident.
"Chicago Police detectives continue to work tirelessly to solve this case and hold the criminals who committed this senseless act of violence last Thursday night responsible for their actions," McCarthy said in a statement. "These charges are just the beginning, and this investigation remains ongoing at this time."
DIGITS: Facing deadline for government shutdown, most Americans prefer compromise to rigidity
Political gridlock in Washington may bring the government itself to a halt next week, although two new polls reflect a broad desire among the public for compromise.
Both the Pew Research Center and Gallup released polls showing majorities of Americans in favor of compromise, both the overall principle and the specific example of striking a deal on the budget by politicians who reflect "your views."
In the Gallup survey, 53 percent said it was more important for political leaders to compromise in order to get things done, more than double the 25 percent who said it was more important for leaders to stick to their beliefs. The preference for compromise over rigidity holds across ideological groups and among both independents and Democrats. Republicans and those who say they support the tea party, however, split evenly between the two sides.
The Pew finding, which focused specifically on this budget fight and "lawmakers who share your views," found a sharper divide centered around support for the tea party movement. About 6 in 10 overall (57 percent) said the leaders who shared their political views should "be more willing to compromise, even if that means they pass a budget you disagree with." Independents and Democrats clearly favored compromise, while Republicans overall were fairly evenly split: 49 percent said they wanted politicians to stand by their principles, 43 percent to compromise.
That even split masks a sharp divide between Republicans who say they agree with the tea party's positions on issues and those Republicans who do not. Tea party Republicans favor holding the line by a 71 percent to 20 percent margin. Most Republicans who do not share the tea party's views say instead their leaders in Washington should compromise.
Biden tours Colorado flood, assures survivors that government shutdown won't affect aid
DENVER (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden is promising residents that aid for areas devastated by massive flooding in Colorado won't stop even if the federal government shuts down.
"I promise you, I promise you, there will be help," Biden said after flying by helicopter Monday over the Big Thompson River, and fields and reservoirs swollen with muddy brown water.
Biden stood with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and member of the state congressional delegation to tell Coloradans not to fear that budget problems in Washington could stall aid.
"It's probably going to scare the living devil out of you," Biden said about debt ceiling negotiations in Congress. Biden insisted the "dysfunction" in Washington won't affect emergency spending.
"They will not shut down even if the Congress doesn't fund the federal government," Biden said, pointing to federal emergency relief workers behind him.