Who knew? Shutdown casualties include weddings, bike rides, more random activities of life
WASHINGTON (AP) — Taking out a mortgage. Getting married in a park. Going for a fall foliage drive. Cashing a check.
Who knew that so many random activities of daily life could be imperiled by a shutdown of the federal government?
Americans are finding that "the government" entails a lot more than the stereotype of faceless D.C. bureaucrats cranking out red tape.
And so it is that two dozen October weddings, including nine this week, are in jeopardy because they're scheduled for monument sites on the National Mall. Ditto for a New Jersey couple planning to marry at the Grand Canyon.
Mike Cassesso and MaiLien Le's permit to get married Saturday on the lawn near the Jefferson Memorial looks to be among the casualties, giving rise to a new Twitter hashtag for their (hash)shutdownwedding. They're looking at alternate sites, including the restaurant booked for their reception.
Computer glitches in health insurance marketplaces signal strong demand for coverage
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Overloaded websites and jammed phone lines frustrated consumers for a second day as they tried to sign up for health insurance under the nation's historic health care overhaul.
That was putting pressure on the federal government and the states that are running their own insurance exchanges to fix the problems amid strong demand for the private insurance plans.
"I think I'm through with Hawaii Health Connector," said Richard Gamberg, 61, of Honolulu, after tweeting messages to officials and complaining to state lawmakers on Wednesday. "They've got ads in the newspaper, they've got ads on the TV — it just flabbergasts me."
He was among the would-be customers in Hawaii who were still unable to buy insurance policies online Wednesday, forcing them to turn directly to insurance companies to examine their options. In Oregon, officials said a faulty online calculator would not be fixed until late October.
The delays that continued Wednesday offered one good sign for President Barack Obama and supporters of his signature domestic policy achievement, demonstrating what appeared to be exceptionally high interest in the new system. But the problems also could dampen enthusiasm for the law as Republicans use it as a rallying cry to keep most of the federal government closed.
Foreign forces train Afghans to fight deadliest threat — roadside bombs — as withdrawal looms
GARDEZ, Afghanistan (AP) — Raqam Jan was at home on furlough after two years of fighting for the Afghan army when he stepped out of his house and onto a homemade mine. It had been planted not just to kill him but to send a message to his fellow villagers about the perils of serving in the Afghan security forces.
Recovering from shrapnel wounds to his legs in a military hospital in Gardez, near the border with Pakistan, the 24-year-old private vented his frustration with the Taliban's increasing use of what the U.S. military calls IEDs, or improvised explosive devices.
"Fighting them face-to-face is not a problem for us; our weakness is mines, we have some weakness countering mines," Jan said.
After 12 years of war, roadside bombs are the No. 1 killer, claiming thousands of lives every year. And as foreign troops wind down operations in preparation for their withdrawal in 15 months, insurgents are using an ever larger number of these explosives to assert their grip and recapture territory.
Afghan and coalition military officials say their enemy is resorting to hidden bombs because it can't take on the Afghan security forces in open battle. Now they are equipping Afghan forces with metal detectors and specialized vehicles to clear roads, and running a school for bomb squads.
China's drive to clean up thriving but dirty recycling business jolts global industry
BEIJING (AP) — China for years has welcomed the world's trash, creating a roaring business in recycling and livelihoods for tens of thousands. Now authorities are clamping down on an industry that has helped the rich West dispose of its waste but also added to the degradation of China's environment.
The Chinese campaign is aimed at enforcing standards for waste imports after Beijing decided too many were unusable or even dangerous and would end up in its landfills. Under the crackdown dubbed Green Fence, China has rejected hundreds of containers of waste it said were contaminated or that improperly mixed different types of scrap.
It is abruptly changing a multibillion-dollar global industry in which China is a major processing center for the world's discarded soft drink bottles, scrap metal, electronics and other materials. Whole villages in China's southeast are devoted to processing single products, such as electronics. Household workshops break down discarded computers or appliances to recover copper and other metals. Some use crude smelters or burn leftover plastic and other materials, releasing lead and other toxins into the air. Green Fence is in line with the ruling Communist Party's pledges to make the economy cleaner and more efficient after three decades of breakneck growth that fouled rivers and left China's cities choking on smog.
Brian Conners, who works for a Philadelphia company that recycles discarded refrigerators, says buyers used to visit every week looking for scrap plastic to ship to China for reprocessing. Then Beijing launched its crackdown in February aimed at cleaning up the thriving but dirty recycling industry.
"Now they're all gone," said Conners, president of ARCA Advanced Processing.
San Francisco man charged in $1B underground drugs website dealing cocaine, heroin, LSD
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — FBI agents found him in the science fiction section of a small branch of the San Francisco public library, chatting online.
The man known as Dread Pirate Roberts — 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht — was on his personal laptop Tuesday afternoon, authorities said, talking about the vast black market bazaar that is believed to have brokered more than $1 billion in transactions for illegal drugs and services.
When a half-dozen FBI agents burst into the library in a quiet, blue collar neighborhood they abruptly ended Ulbricht's conversation with a cooperating witness, pinned the Austin, Texas, native to a floor-to-ceiling window and then took him off to jail, law enforcement and library spokeswomen said.
Ulbricht was later charged in criminal complaints in federal courts in New York and Maryland. He's accused of making millions of dollars operating the secret Silk Road website and of a failed murder-for-hire scheme, all while living anonymously with two roommates whom he paid $1,000 to rent a room in a modest neighborhood.
Federal authorities shut down the website.
Katherine Jackson loses last big chance to recover damages in the death of her superstar son
LOS ANGELES (AP) — With a jury's refusal to hold a concert promoter responsible for Michael Jackson's death, the late singer's mother lost perhaps her last best chance to collect millions in damages and place blame for her son's untimely demise.
"I'm OK," was all that the Jackson family matriarch said as she moved slowly out of a courtroom after hearing Wednesday's stunning verdict denying her claim for as much as $1.5 billion and giving her nothing.
Some called it the Jackson family's last stand in court, a longshot effort that may have been doomed by the singer's own history of addiction struggles and headstrong decision-making when it came to his medical care. All of it came out in this trial, and while Jackson's musical triumphs live on, his image took a serious hit.
His mother's grief was on display almost daily as she sat In the courtroom gallery with a bulky bodyguard and listened to the story of her son's troubled life emerge from the shadows that long surrounded it.
Jurors said they believed Dr. Conrad Murray, who went to prison for giving Jackson an overdose of the drug propofol, was hired by AEG Live LLC at Jackson's behest but they found that he was competent to do the job for which he was hired — to act as a general practitioner looking after the star on his planned "This Is It" concert tour.
Tightknit church group among the victims of a fiery bus crash that killed 8 in Tennessee
DANDRIDGE, Tenn. (AP) — For months, a tight-knit group of seniors at a North Carolina church had been looking forward to the road trip.
It was a tradition for members of the Young at Heart Ministry to attend the annual Fall Jubilee in Gatlinburg, Tenn., an event featuring gospel singers and speakers. The Front Street Baptist Church's website described the gathering as "three days of singing, laughing and preaching" for "mature and senior believers."
But on the way back to Statesville, N.C., on Wednesday, the bus carrying the church group blew a tire, veered across a highway median and crashed into a sport utility vehicle and tractor-trailer in a fiery wreck that killed eight people.
Fourteen other people were hurt in the accident in northeastern Tennessee, including two who were in critical condition.
Church members on Wednesday night were waiting for more details. None of the victims have been identified.
Suicide car bombing targeting militant commander kills 15 people in northwest Pakistan
PARACHINAR, Pakistan (AP) — A Taliban suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into the compound of a rival militant commander in northwest Pakistan on Thursday, killing 15 people, a government official said.
The commander, Nabi Hanfi, was not present at the time of the attack, said Wajid Khan, a local government administrator. Hanfi has been battling the Pakistani Taliban in the Orakzai tribal area where the bombing occurred.
Gunmen first fired shots at Hanfi's compound in Balandkhel village, and then the suicide bomber detonated his vehicle, said Khan. The blast killed 15 people and wounded six others, he said.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid claimed responsibility for the attack, saying five militants targeted Hanfi because he formed a militant group to fight them.
"Mullah Nabi had been our target, and he will remain on our target list," Shahid told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.
'Hunt for Red October' author Tom Clancy was a master of realistic military thrillers
LOS ANGELES (AP) — With CIA analyst Jack Ryan, Tom Clancy created a character that spoke to audiences from both page and screen, representing the changing mood of a country facing growing geopolitical challenges.
"Thrillers, like all art, are always a reflection of the culture," said fellow author Brad Meltzer. "No one captured that Cold War fear — and that uniquely American perspective— like Clancy. Jack Ryan wasn't just a character. He was us. He was every American in those days when we were a push-of-the-button away from nuclear war."
Clancy brought such realism and attention to detail to his novels that in 1985, a year after the Cold War thriller "The Hunt for Red October" came out, a military official suspected the author of having access to classified material.
The best-selling novelist, who died Tuesday in Baltimore at 66, insisted then, and after, that his information was strictly unclassified: books, interviews and papers that were easily obtained. Also, two submarine officers reviewed the final manuscript.
Government officials may have worried how Clancy knew that a Russian submarine spent only about 15 percent of its time at sea or how many Seahawk missiles it carried. But his extreme attention to technical detail and accuracy earned him respect inside the intelligence community and beyond. It also helped make Clancy the most widely read and influential military novelist of his time, one who seemed to capture a shift in the country's mood away from the CIA misdeeds that were exposed in the 1970s to the heroic feats of Jack Ryan.
On The Road Again: Cobb, Rays blank Indians 4-0 to earn playoff shot against Boston
CLEVELAND (AP) — As champagne bottles were being carried into Tampa Bay's boisterous celebration, equipment bags were hustled out of the clubhouse and loaded onto carts before being taken to the airport.
Another airport. Another trip. Another city.
The Rays aren't done traveling. Their October road show rolls on.
Alex Cobb and three relievers combined to shut out Cleveland and silence a raucous sellout crowd that hung on every pitch Wednesday night as Tampa Bay set up a division series showdown with the Red Sox by beating the Indians 4-0 in the AL wild-card game. In the past four days, the Rays have won in Toronto, Texas and Cleveland, a had-to-have, three-game sweep that tested Tampa unlike any series this season.