On top of failed inspections, US nuclear force now hit with alleged top-level misbehavior
WASHINGTON (AP) — First it was bad attitudes among young officers in nuclear missile launch centers. Now it's alleged bad behavior by two of the nuclear arsenal's top commanders.
Together the missteps spell trouble for a nuclear force doubted by some for its relevance, defended by others as vital to national security and now compelled to explain how the firing of key commanders this week should not shake public confidence.
The Air Force on Friday fired Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, who was in charge of its nuclear missiles. Two days earlier the Navy sacked Vice Adm. Tim Giardina, the second-in-command at U.S. Strategic Command, which writes the military's nuclear war plans and would transmit launch orders should the nation ever go to nuclear war.
In an Associated Press interview Friday, the nation's most senior nuclear commander, Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, said he told his bosses, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Joint Chiefs chairman, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, that despite the two "unfortunate behavioral incidents," the nuclear force is stable.
"I still have 100 percent confidence that the nation's nuclear deterrent force is safe, secure and effective," Kehler said from his Strategic Command headquarters in Nebraska.
Plan developing among bipartisan Senate group would reopen govt and raise debt limit
WASHINGTON (AP) — With talks having stalled between the White House and House Republicans, a bipartisan group in the Senate is polishing a measure that would reopen the government and prevent a first-ever default on the country's bills.
The negotiations in the Senate come as the chamber meets in a rare Saturday session to vote on a Democratic measure to lift the government's borrowing cap through the end of next year. Republicans are poised to reject it amid talks among the group of rank-and-file senators — talks monitored with the full attention of Senate leaders.
The bipartisan group's focus is on a proposal by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and others that would pair a six-month plan to keep the government open with an increase in the government's borrowing limit through January.
House Republicans, meanwhile, are slated to meet Saturday morning to get an update from their leaders as matters come to a head.
President Barack Obama on Friday privately turned away a House plan to link the reopening of the government — and a companion measure to temporarily increase the government's borrowing cap — to concessions on the budget.
Wind, rain, seawater pound eastern India as immense, powerful cyclone roars toward coast
BHUBANESHWAR, India (AP) — Strong winds and heavy rains pounded India's eastern coastline Saturday, as hundreds of thousands of people took shelter from a massive, powerful cyclone that was expected to reach land in a few hours.
The skies were dark — almost black — at midmorning in Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa state and about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the coast. Roaring winds made palm trees sway wildly, and to the south, seawater was pushing inland.
By Friday evening, some 600,000 people had been moved to higher ground or shelters in Orissa, which is expected to bear the brunt of the cyclone, said Surya Narayan Patro, the state's top disaster management official.
About 12 hours before Cyclone Phailin's expected landfall, meteorologists held out hope that it might hit while in a temporary weakened state. But no matter what, it was forecast to be large and deadly. Satellite images showed the cyclone filling nearly the entire Bay of Bengal, an area larger than France.
"A storm this large can't peter out that fast," said Ryan Maue, a meteorologist at Weather Bell, a private U.S. weather firm. "There's nothing to stop it at this point."
A look at devastating cyclones that have formed in the Bay of Bengal
Cyclone Phailin is expected to cause extensive damage in eastern India, with a storm surge that will flood low-lying areas and heavy rains and strong winds that will last for hours. Here are some details on other devastating cyclones that have formed in the Bay of Bengal:
— May 2008: Cyclone Nargis hits Myanmar with a storm surge that washes up densely populated areas around the Irrawaddy River delta. Around 138,000 people died and tens of thousands of homes and other buildings were washed away. Damage to public and private assets was estimated at around US$ 10 billion.
— October 1999: A super-cyclone sweeps through the state of Orissa in eastern India, killing at least 10,000 people and leaving an estimated 1.5 million homeless. Winds of over 250km/h (160mph) were recorded, and a devastating tidal surge drove across coastal plains.
— April 1991: Nearly 139,000 people died from a cyclone that hit Bangladesh with mighty 225 kph winds and a storm surge between 6 meters and 7.6 meters.
— November 1977: A devastating cyclone struck India's southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh. A total of 14,204 people were killed; however, some estimates place the loss of life at 50,000. Damage from the cyclone was placed at US$498.5 million.
Ariz., some other states agree to US gov't offer on reopening shuttered nat'l parks
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Arizona officials say tourists should be able to return to Grand Canyon National Park Saturday after the state along with several counterparts agreed to a federal government plan.
But the Obama administration's OK to reopen parks closed by the government shutdown came with a big caveat: States must foot the bill with money they likely won't see again.
So far, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Arizona and New York have agreed. Governors in other states were trying to gauge what would be the bigger economic hit — paying to keep the parks operating or losing the tourist money that flows when the scenic attractions are open.
South Dakota and several corporate donors worked out a deal with the National Park Service to reopen Mount Rushmore beginning Monday. Gov. Dennis Daugaard said it will cost $15,200 a day to pay the federal government to run the landmark in the Black Hills.
He said he wired four days' worth of the donations on Friday.
US officials say progress made in Afghan talks over allowing American troops to stay past 2014
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry extended talks on Saturday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the contentious security deal to allow American troops to remain in the country after the NATO-led military mission ends next year.
Talks on a bilateral security agreement that the United States wants by the end of October were extended by at least two hours and a spokesman for Karzai's office said they would go on until the early afternoon.
U.S. officials said some progress had been made but it was unclear if that was the reason for the continued talks. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the negotiations.
Kerry's unannounced overnight visit to Kabul comes as talks foundered over issues of Afghan sovereignty despite a year of negotiations. Discussions have repeatedly stalled in recent weeks over Karzai's demand for American guarantees against future foreign intervention from countries like Pakistan, and U.S. demands for any post-2014 residual force to be able to conduct counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations.
The situation deteriorated in the past week following a series of angry comments from Karzai that the United States and NATO were repeatedly violating Afghanistan's sovereignty and inflicting suffering on its people.
Israeli 'plug' and 'socket' TV ads electrify critics demanding clarity on puppets' sexuality
JERUSALEM (AP) — The goal was merely to promote clean energy in Israel — but television ads starring a pair of male puppets called "plug" and "socket" have instead unleashed a debate about gay pride.
The puppets, named Sheka and Teka in Hebrew, have appeared in ads for the state-owned Israel Electric Corp. for more than a decade. Israelis have long playfully questioned whether they might be gay. But the arrival of a baby puppet in the new campaign set off fresh speculation about their sexual orientation.
The ads highlight a striking paradox of the Holy Land: Although religion holds great sway and there is no civil marriage, gays have gained a widespread acceptance that is increasingly noted around the world. Gay activists demand the ad characters, who have a close but ambiguous relationship, officially come out of the closet.
Some gay rights advocates accuse the company of being intentionally ambiguous about their sexuality in a cynical publicity ploy.
"This should weigh on the conscience of everyone who worked on this campaign, who will come home and ask themselves whether they would want to raise a child in a country where the electric company says: 'Hide, don't be proud,'" wrote Dvir Bar in nightlife magazine City Mouse.
1 dead as log truck collides with sightseeing train carrying dozens atop scenic W.Va. mountain
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A log truck driver killed in a collision with a train carrying 63 sightseers and four crewmembers on a fall foliage trek amid West Virginia's mountains apparently ran through crossing signals, authorities said.
Twenty-three people were injured, six seriously, in the rail crossing accident with U.S. Route 250 atop Cheat Mountain, about 160 miles east of Charleston, officials said. The accident occurred during prime leaf-watching season in the heavily forested eastern part of the state.
Randolph County Sheriff Mark Brady said two of the train's passenger cars flipped on their sides after impact at a rail crossing on a mountain highway, the log truck was a "total loss" and the truck driver who was alone in his vehicle was pronounced dead at the site.
Big, heavy logs lay piled about a scene where first responders aided shaken passengers to disembark from their scenic train ride.
"The railroad crossing signals were flashing at the scene. As all emergency personnel arrived, we observed the signals flashing at the time," Brady said in an audiotaped news conference held with hospital officials who emailed the audio recording to The Associated Press.
Person with knowledge: Dead 2-year-old is son of Vikings star Adrian Peterson
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson mourned the death of his young son Friday, while words of support poured in from all corners of the sports world.
Authorities said a 2-year-old boy died Friday of injuries suffered in an alleged child abuse case in South Dakota, and a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press the boy was Peterson's son.
Lincoln County State's Attorney Tom Wollman confirmed the death of the child, who had been in critical condition in a hospital with severe head injuries since Wednesday. The boy died at 11:43 a.m. at Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls after being removed from life support, Wollman said.
Wollman said he'll review police and medical reports before making further decisions about criminal charges, possibly by early next week. Joseph Patterson, 27, was charged with aggravated assault and aggravated battery in the child's death. He had a court appearance Friday and was ordered held on $750,000 cash bond.
Peterson declined to talk about the case after practice Friday, and prosecutors and police in South Dakota declined to confirm the boy was his son. However, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed the connection to the AP on condition of anonymity because Peterson had requested privacy.
Beltran, Cardinals outlast Dodgers 3-2 in 13 innings in Game 1 of NL championship series
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Everything Carlos Beltran does looks effortless. St. Louis Cardinals teammates joke that it's like he's from another world.
"It's like you've got to put a mirror under his nose to check if he's breathing, he's so calm, cool and relaxed," leadoff man Matt Carpenter said after Beltran delivered another big October performance in a 3-2, 13-inning victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.
"It's like jazz music is playing in his head. He's just so even-keel, nothing gets to him."
Beltran hit a tying, two-run double in the third inning. Then he took charge on defense, calling center fielder Jon Jay off the ball before throwing out a runner at the plate from shallow right field in the 10th to keep it even.
"I felt I was going to have a better angle so I called for the ball about five or six times," Beltran said. "And Jon Jay was able to hear me and leave it up to me."