Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons wins Nobel Peace Prize
OSLO, Norway (AP) — The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons won this year's Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its efforts to stop the chemical warfare that has haunted the world from Hitler's gas chambers to the battlefields of Syria.
Based in The Hague, Netherlands, the OPCW was formed in 1997 to enforce the Chemical Weapons Convention, the first international treaty to outlaw an entire class of weapons.
"The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law," the committee said. "Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons."
The organization has 189 member states and Friday's award comes just days before Syria officially joins, and even as OPCW inspectors are on a highly risky United Nations-backed disarmament mission based in Damascus to verify and destroy President Bashar Assad's arsenal of poison gas and nerve agents amid a raging civil war.
By giving the award to the largely faceless international organization the Nobel committee found a way to highlight the Syria conflict, now in its third year, without siding with any group involved in the fighting.
Human Rights Watch: Syrian rebels committed war crimes, killed civilians in planned attack
BEIRUT (AP) — Jihadi-led rebel fighters in Syria killed at least 190 civilians and abducted more than 200 during an offensive against pro-regime villages, committing a war crime, an international human rights group said Friday.
The Aug. 4 attacks on unarmed civilians in more than a dozen villages in the coastal province of Latakia were systematic and could even amount to a crime against humanity, Human Rights Watch said in a 105-page report based on a visit to the area a month later.
Witnesses said rebels went house to house, in some cases executing entire families and in other cases killing men and taking women and children hostages. The villagers belong to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam which forms the backbone of President Bashar Assad's regime — and which Sunni Muslim extremists consider heretics.
One survivor, Hassan Shebli, said he fled as rebels approached his village of Barouda at dawn, but was forced to leave behind his wife, who was unable to walk without crutches, and his 23-year-old son, who is completely paralyzed.
When Shebli returned days later, after government forces retook the village, he found his wife and son buried near the house and bullet holes and blood splatters in the bedroom, the New York-based group said.
Economic threats from US debt standoff likely to be prime agenda topic at finance meetings
WASHINGTON (AP) — The threat posed by the U.S. debt standoff is sure to be a prime topic of discussion when finance officials from major nations gather for their latest stock-taking of the global economy.
Finance ministers and central bank officials from the Group of 20 nations are in Washington ahead of weekend meetings of the 188-nation International Monetary Fund and its sister lending organization, the World Bank.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will represent the United States at the discussions. Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen will also participate in some of the meetings over the weekend. The sessions will be something of a farewell appearance for Bernanke, who will be attending his last G-20 session, and a coming-out for Yellen, who was tapped this week by President Barack Obama to succeed Bernanke as head of the Fed.
The G-20 session is scheduled to wrap up in early afternoon Friday with a news conference by Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. Russia is chairing the G-20 this year. The G-20 represents around 85 percent of the global economy. It includes established industrial nations such as the United States, Germany and France and rapidly growing emerging market economies such as China, Brazil and India.
The finance officials are meeting at a time when growth in emerging market economies has cooled and some of them have struggled to contain the fall-out from worries over rising interest rates if the Federal Reserve begins trimming its bond purchases.
Americans find little to like about Obama or either party heading into 2014 midterm elections
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are finding little they like about President Barack Obama or either political party, according to a new poll that suggests the possibility of a "throw the bums out" mentality in next year's midterm elections.
The AP-GfK poll finds few people approve of the way the president is handling most major issues and most people say he's not decisive, strong, honest, reasonable or inspiring.
In the midst of the government shutdown and Washington gridlock, the president is faring much better than his party, with large majorities of those surveyed finding little positive to say about Democrats. The negatives are even higher for the Republicans across the board, with 4 out of 5 people describing the GOP as unlikeable and dishonest and not compassionate, refreshing, inspiring or innovative.
Negativity historically hurts the party in power — particularly when it occurs in the second term of a presidency — but this round seems to be hitting everyone. More people now say they see bigger differences between the two parties than before Obama was elected, yet few like what either side is offering. A big unknown: possible fallout from the unresolved budget battle in Washington.
The numbers offer warning signs for every incumbent lawmaker, and if these angry sentiments stretch into next year, the 2014 elections could feel much like the 2006 and 2010 midterms when being affiliated with Washington was considered toxic by many voters. In 2006, voters booted Republicans from power in the House and Senate, and in 2010, they fired Democrats who had been controlling the House.
No deal yet, but House GOP, White House seek end to debt limit, government shutdown battles
WASHINGTON (AP) — After weeks of ultimatums, President Barack Obama and House Republicans are exploring whether they can end a budget standoff that has triggered a partial government shutdown and edged Washington to the verge of a historic, economy-jarring federal default.
The two sides continued discussions into the night Thursday after Obama and top administration officials met for 90 minutes with House Speaker John Boehner and other House GOP leaders at the White House. No agreement was reported and plenty of hurdles remained, but both sides cast their meeting positively as, for the first time, hopes emerged that a resolution might be attainable, even if only a temporary one.
Obama planned a late-morning White House meeting Friday with GOP senators, who said they would present options of their own for ending the shutdown and debt limit standoff.
A White House statement about Thursday's meeting with House Republicans said "no specific determination was made" but added, "The president looks forward to making continued progress with members on both sides of the aisle."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said that the meeting was "clarifying for both sides" and that following a night of negotiations, "hopefully we can see a way forward."
Your guide to the 2013 Nobel Prizes: Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Literature, Peace and Econ
STOCKHOLM (AP) — Here's a look at the achievements being honored by this year's Nobel Prizes, the $1.2 million awards handed out since 1901 by committees in Stockholm and Oslo:
NOBEL PRIZE IN LITERATURE
The literature prize was given to Canada's Alice Munro, hailed by the award-giving Swedish Academy as a "master of the contemporary short story." The 82-year-old author is often called "Canada's Chekhov" for her astute, unflinching and compassionate depiction of seemingly unremarkable lives. She is the author of a series of story collections chronicling the lives of girls and women before and after the 1960s social revolution, including "The Moons of Jupiter," ''The Progress of Love" and "Runaway."
NOBEL PRIZE IN CHEMISTRY
The chemistry prize was given to three U.S.-based scientists for developing computer models that predict complex chemical reactions that can be used for tasks like creating new drugs. Their approach combined classical physics and quantum physics. The winners are Martin Karplus of the University of Strasbourg, France, and Harvard University; Michael Levitt of the Stanford University School of Medicine, and Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
At 40th anniversary of Pascagoula UFO incident, survivor says it turned his life upside down
PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) — Charles Hickson never regretted the notoriety that came his way after he told authorities he encountered an unidentified flying object and its occupants 40 years ago on the banks of the Pascagoula River. Until his death in 2011, Hickson told his story to anyone who would listen.
But Calvin Parker Jr., the other man present for one of the most high-profile UFO cases in American history, has never come to terms with what he still says was a visit with gray, crab-clawed creatures from somewhere else. He says the encounter on Oct. 11, 1973, turned his life upside down.
"This is something I really didn't want to happen," Parker told The Associated Press as the 40th anniversary of the encounter approached.
Parker was unnerved by initial crush of unwelcome attention, with newsmen and UFO enthusiasts overrunning Walker Shipyard, where he and Hickson worked. He tried to dodge the spotlight for decades, moving frequently before returning to Mississippi's Gulf Coast in recent years.
The incident made headlines, sparked a wave of UFO sightings nationwide and became one of the most widely examined cases on record. Skeptics ranged from the deputies who first interviewed the men to an author who sought to poke holes in the story, and Parker himself has had conflicting thoughts about whether he was visited by aliens or demons.
What is the OPCW, which has won the Nobel Peace Prize, and what does it do?
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Organization for the Probition of Chemical Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its work to rid the world of such weapons. Here's a look at the OPCW and the work it has been doing over the past 15 years:
WHERE DID THE OPCW COME FROM?
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was thrust into the spotlight in recent weeks when it was required to oversee the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria, but it has been working since the 1990s as the body that implements the Chemical Weapons Convention, the first international treaty to outlaw an entire class of weapons.
Scott Carpenter, pioneering astronaut and 2nd American in orbit, dies at age 88
DENVER (AP) — Scott Carpenter conquered the heights of space, the depths of the ocean, and the darkness of fear. And in doing so he became the second American to orbit the Earth, powered by not just a rocket but an insatiable curiosity.
"Conquering of fear is one of life's greatest pleasures and it can be done a lot of different places," he said.
His wife, Patty Barrett, said Carpenter died Thursday in a Denver hospice of complications from a September stroke. Carpenter, who lived in Vail, Colo., was 88.
Carpenter followed John Glenn into orbit, and it was Carpenter who gave him the historic sendoff, "Godspeed John Glenn." The two were the last survivors of the famed original Mercury 7 astronauts from the "Right Stuff" days of the early 1960s. Glenn is the only one left alive.
In his only flight, Carpenter missed his landing by 288 miles, leaving a nation on edge for an hour as it watched live and putting Carpenter on the outs with his NASA bosses. So Carpenter found a new place to explore: the ocean floor.
In dramatic SEAL rescue of Capt. Phillips in 2009, investigators never found stolen $30,000
WASHINGTON (AP) — Dramatic accounts of the Navy SEALs rescuing the captain of an American cargo ship made headlines around the world in 2009. The military said SEAL snipers killed a trio of pirates in a tense standoff. Three shots, three kills. It was the lethal, coordinated precision that has made SEALs famous and feared.
It was an unbelievable story, with a new retelling that hits the big screen Friday with Tom Hanks playing Capt. Richard Phillips. But the official version that unfolded in the Indian Ocean wasn't as tidy as Hollywood's, or the versions in Phillips' own book or in contemporaneous news reports. In fact, many more than three shots were fired, $30,000 went missing and the integrity of the SEALs was questioned.
The unvarnished story begins on April 8, 2009. Four armed Somali pirates scurried up the side of a large cargo ship, Maersk Alabama, and took the crew and Phillips hostage. In a failed attempt to get the pirates to leave, Phillips gave them $30,000 from the ship safe. The pirates eventually abandoned the Maersk, jumping into a lifeboat and taking the cash and Phillips at gunpoint.
The USS Bainbridge, a destroyer that had responded to the hijacking, gave chase as the pirates headed toward the Somali coast. Days later, a team of SEALs parachuted into the Indian Ocean and boarded the Bainbridge. During the crisis, the Navy persuaded the pirates to let the Bainbridge tow the lifeboat and then tricked the fourth pirate into coming aboard the Bainbridge.
As the Bainbridge reeled in the lifeboat for a better shot, the SEALs took up positions on the back of the warship and trained their sights on the three pirates.