Sebelius heads to Hill to defend health law and her job as problems plague website's rollout
WASHINGTON (AP) — Eager to cast blame, lawmakers are preparing to grill President Barack Obama's top health official over problems with the rollout of the government's health care website.
A growing number of Republicans in Congress are calling for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to step down or be fired because of problems consumers are having signing up for insurance coverage on the government's new website.
On Wednesday, Sebelius heads to Capitol Hill to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, her first appearance before Congress since state-based health exchanges opened for business on Oct. 1.
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate Health Committee, on Tuesday joined the list of GOP lawmakers calling for Sebelius to go.
"Taxpayers have spent $400 million to create exchanges that, after 3½ years, still don't work," Alexander said. "No private-sector chief executive officer would escape accountability after such a poor performance."
For Obama and Merkel, spying revelations test strength of relationship built on trust
WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Barack Obama visited Berlin in June, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a point of showing him a balcony in her office overlooking train tracks that crossed the border of her once-divided country — a symbol of her upbringing on the east side of the divide, where eavesdropping by secret police was rampant during the Cold War.
The private moment between the two leaders underscores the degree to which Merkel's personal history has influenced her outrage over revelations that the National Security Agency was monitoring her communications. The secret spying threatens to damage the close relationship between Obama and Merkel, which, until now, has been defined by candor and trust.
"We are very sensitive to the fact that she comes from the East, and that brings with it a historical perspective on surveillance that is quite powerful," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser. He said while the White House hopes the strength of Obama's relationship with Merkel will allow them to weather the current controversy, "it also clearly makes it more difficult when she is surprised by these types of revelations."
Reports based on leaks from former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden suggest the U.S. has monitored the telephone communications of 35 foreign leaders. The fact that Merkel was among them has been particularly troubling to many in Europe and on Capitol Hill, given her status as a senior stateswoman, the leader of Europe's strongest economy, and a key American ally on global economics, Iranian nuclear negotiations and the Afghanistan war.
Obama, in a phone call to Merkel last week, said the U.S. was not currently monitoring her communications and had no plans to do so in the future. But those assurances appeared to do little to placate the German leader, who said trust with the U.S. "has to be built anew" and there must be no "spying among friends."
Questions about economy's health and budget uncertainty expected to keep Fed policy unchanged
WASHINGTON (AP) — Renewed questions about the economy's health and uncertainty surrounding the government's budget fight will likely lead the Federal Reserve on Wednesday to maintain the pace of the stimulus it's supplying to the economy.
That expectation marks a reversal from just six weeks ago, when almost everyone expected the Fed to start trimming its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases. The bond buying is intended to keep long-term interest rates low to help the economy rebound from the Great Recession.
The Fed is to announce its decision in a statement after a two-day policy meeting.
The central bank surprised investors and economists at its last meeting in September when it chose not to reduce its bond buying. Since then, a 16-day partial government shutdown shaved an estimated $25 billion from economic growth this quarter. And a batch of tepid economic data pointed to a still-subpar economy.
Now, few think the Fed will reduce its stimulus any time soon. Many analysts now predict the Fed will maintain the pace of its bond purchases into next year.
Egyptian security forces arrest deputy head of Muslim Brotherhood party
CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian security forces raided an apartment in eastern Cairo early Wednesday, arresting a key Muslim Brotherhood figure who had been on the run since the July coup that ousted the country's Islamist president, the Interior Ministry said.
The arrest of Essam el-Erian, the deputy leader of the Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice party, was the latest in a wide-ranging crackdown and prosecution of both the Islamist group's leaders and its rank-and-file since the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, who also hails from the Brotherhood.
Morsi himself is in detention, held incommunicado at an undisclosed location and is due to appear in court on Nov. 4 on charges of inciting followers to violence and murder.
El-Erian was apprehended by security forces acting on a tip that led them to the apartment in the suburb of New Cairo, a security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
The media-savvy el-Erian was among few senior Brotherhood figures still on the run. He was considered a more moderate leader but turned hard-line and went into hiding after the popularly-backed July 3 coup that ousted Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president.
As Sunni violence spirals, some Shiites issue call to arms and Iraqi government seeks US help
BAGHDAD (AP) — The wave of attacks by al-Qaida-led Sunni extremists that has killed thousands of Iraqis this year, most of them Shiites, is provoking ominous calls from Shiite leaders to take up arms in self-defense.
They generally insist they'll do it legally, under the banner of the security forces. But Iraq's young democracy is still struggling, nearly two years after U.S. troops withdrew, and the specter of armed Shiite and Sunni camps revives memories of the sectarian fighting that took the country to the brink of civil war in the mid-2000s.
Since April, bombings and shootings have killed more than 5,500 people. Averaging at least two a week, they target outdoor markets, cafes, bus stations, mosques and pilgrimages in Shiite areas.
Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who will meet with President Barack Obama on Friday, says he wants American help in quelling the violence.
Departing for Washington, he appealed for quicker delivery of offensive weapons such as helicopters that Baghdad says it needs.
Kids as young as 14 pimp other kids out for sex in Indonesia; Internet helping operations grow
BANDUNG, Indonesia (AP) — Chimoy flicks a lighter and draws a long drag until her cheeks collapse on the skinny Dunhill Mild, exhaling a column of smoke.
Her no-nonsense, tough-girl attitude projects the confidence of a woman in her 30s, yet she's only 17. Colorful angel and butterfly tattoos cover her skin, and she wears a black T-shirt emblazoned with a huge skull.
Chimoy — by her own account and those of other girls and social workers — is a pimp.
She got into the business when she was 14. A boyfriend's sister asked her to sell herself for sex, but she recruited a friend for the job instead. Then she established a pimping operation that grew to include a car, a house and some 30 working girls earning her up to $3,000 a month — a small fortune in a poor country.
"The money was too strong to resist," she says. "I was really proud to make money on my own."
Police: 6 people found dead in South Carolina home following apparent domestic dispute
GREENWOOD COUNTY, S.C. (AP) — Six people were found dead in a home by SWAT team members who stormed in after police unsuccessfully tried to make contact with someone after receiving a call from a man who said he was thinking about hurting himself.
Authorities found the bodies of four adults and two children, including that of whom they believe to be the man who called police, Greenwood County Sheriff's Office spokesman John Long told The Associated Press. The ages of the dead ranged from 9 years old to early 50s, Long said. He could not immediately say how the six were killed.
A preliminary investigation indicates the deaths were related to "a domestic-related incident," Long said. He declined to call it a murder-suicide.
Officers first went to the home in Greenwood County after receiving a call from a man who said he was thinking about hurting himself, Long said. He said while police were on their way, one of the man's neighbors called 911 saying four children from that address had arrived at her house and told her a shot had been fired. He said the children remained at her house.
After about an hour and "several unsuccessful attempts" by officers to make contact with anyone in the home, the SWAT team entered and discovered the bodies, Long said.
Exorcism of 1949 that inspired novel, classic horror film continues to enthrall St. Louis
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Saint Louis University junior Zach Grummer-Strawn has never seen "The Exorcist," the 1973 horror film considered one of the finest examples of unadulterated cinematic terror. He's only vaguely familiar with the monthlong 1949 demon-purging ritual at his school on which the film and William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel were based.
But just in time for Halloween, Jesuit scholars have joined a whole new generation of horror buffs in St. Louis to recount the supernatural incident. The university hosted a panel discussion Tuesday on the exorcism, which involved the treatment of an unidentified suburban Washington, D.C., boy. About 500 people crammed into Pius XII Library, with some spilling into the library aisles, leaning against pillars or sitting on desks.
"I'd like to believe it's the real thing," said Grummer-Strawn, a theology and sociology student from Atlanta. "But you just can't know. That's part of why we're here. It's the pursuit of truth. And it's such a great story."
The university scholars and guest speaker Thomas Allen, author of a 1993 account of the events at the school's former Alexian Brothers Hospital, emphasized that definitive proof that the boy known only as "Robbie" was possessed by malevolent spirits is unattainable. Maybe he instead suffered from mental illness or sexual abuse — or fabricated the entire experience.
Like most of religion's basic tenets, it ultimately comes down to faith.
Rep: Chris Brown entering rehab following assault charge in DC
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Troubled singer Chris Brown is heading to rehab.
A representative for the R&B star announced Tuesday that Brown has decided to go to rehab a day after he was released from jail following his arrest for allegedly punching another man in Washington, D.C. Brown remains on probation after his 2009 attack on then-girlfriend Rihanna and could face jail time as a result of the arrest.
"Chris Brown has elected to enter a rehab facility," a statement said. "His goal is to gain focus and insight into his past and recent behavior, enabling him to continue the pursuit of his life and his career from a healthier vantage point."
Brown's attorney, Mark Geragos, said Tuesday night the singer checked in at an unspecified facility to be treated for anger issues.
"He just decided he wanted to take some time off and do some introspection," Geragos said.
Boston Red Sox hope to win championship at Fenway Park for 1st time since 1918
BOSTON (AP) — Ted Williams never did it. Not Carl Yastrzemski. Not Carlton Fisk. Not even Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling, who ended The Curse nearly a decade ago but did it on the road.
Practically no one alive can remember seeing such an event unfold: The Boston Red Sox could win a World Series title on the celebrated green grass at Fenway Park.
When the Red Sox last won a World Series at home, Babe Ruth, Carl Mays and Harry Hooper were the stars in September 1918, a season cut short by World War I. Ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2, this year's Red Sox have two chances to reward their faithful.
"It would be awesome," said John Lackey, who starts Game 6 on Wednesday night against Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha.
Fenway was just a kid the last time the Red Sox took the title there, a modern 6-year-old ballpark. A crowd of 15,238 watched the Red Sox defeat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 to win the Series in six games.