Senate easily passes $1.1 spending bill; Obama's signature next step
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress sent President Barack Obama a $1.1 trillion government-wide spending bill Thursday, easing the harshest effects of last year's automatic budget cuts after tea party critics chastened by October's partial shutdown mounted only a faint protest.
The Senate voted 72-26 for the measure, which cleared the House a little more than 24 hours earlier on a similarly lopsided vote. Obama's signature on the bill was expected in time to prevent any interruption in government funding Saturday at midnight.
The huge bill funds every agency of government, pairing increases for NASA and Army Corps of Engineers construction projects with cuts to the Internal Revenue Service and foreign aid. It pays for implementation of Obama's health care law; a fight over implementing "Obamacare" sparked tea party Republicans to partially shut the government down for 16 days last October.
Also included is funding for tighter regulations on financial markets, but at levels lower than the president wanted.
The compromise-laden legislation reflects the realities of divided power in Washington and a desire by both Democrats and Republicans for an election-year respite after three years of budget wars that had Congress and the White House lurching from crisis to crisis. Both parties looked upon the measure as a way to ease automatic spending cuts that both the Pentagon and domestic agencies had to begin absorbing last year.
Legal clash in the digital age: Can police search an arrestee's cellphone without a warrant?
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court decided 40 years ago that police don't need a search warrant to look through anything a person is carrying when arrested. But that was long before smartphones gave people the ability to take with them the equivalent of millions of pages of documents or thousands of photographs.
In a new clash over technology and privacy, the court is being asked to resolve divisions among federal and state courts over whether the old rules should still apply in the digital age.
The justices could say as early as Friday whether they will hear appeals involving warrantless cellphone searches that led to criminal convictions and lengthy prison terms.
There are parallels to other cases making their way through the federal courts, including the much-publicized ones that challenge the massive collection without warrants of telephone records by the National Security Agency. Though the details and scale are far different — searching a single phone for evidence that could send someone to jail versus gathering huge amounts of data, almost all of which will never be used — In both situations the government is relying on Supreme Court decisions from the 1970s, when most households still had rotary-dial telephones.
Cellphones are now everywhere. More than 90 percent of Americans own at least one, the Pew Research Center says, and the majority of those are smartphones — essentially increasingly powerful computers that are also telephones.
Botched execution? Ohio killer takes almost 25 minutes to die from lethal injection
LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A condemned man appeared to gasp several times and took an unusually long time to die — more than 20 minutes — in an execution carried out Thursday with a combination of drugs never before tried in the U.S.
Dennis McGuire's attorney Allen Bohnert called the convicted killer's death "a failed, agonizing experiment" and added: "The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names."
An attorney for McGuire's family said it plans to sue the state over what happened.
McGuire's lawyers had attempted last week to block his execution, arguing that the untried method could lead to a medical phenomenon known as "air hunger" and could cause him to suffer "agony and terror" while struggling to catch his breath.
McGuire, 53, made loud snorting noises during one of the longest executions since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Nearly 25 minutes passed between the time the lethal drugs began flowing and McGuire was pronounced dead at 10:53 a.m.
Vatican comes under tough grilling by UN rights committee for its handling of child sex abuse
GENEVA (AP) — It resembled a courtroom cross-examination, except no question was off-limits, dodging the answer wasn't an option and the proceedings were webcast live.
After decades of accusations that its culture of secrecy contributed to priest sex abuse, the Vatican was forced for the first time Thursday to defend its record in public and at length.
In a stuffy U.N. conference room before an obscure human rights committee, the Holy See was interrogated for eight hours about the scale of abuse and what it was doing to prevent it.
The Vatican was compelled to appear before the committee as a signatory to the U.N. Convention for the Rights of the Child, which requires governments to take all adequate measures to protect children from harm and ensure their interests are placed above all else.
The Holy See was one of the first states to ratify the treaty in 1990, eager to contribute the church's experience in caring for children in Catholic schools, hospitals, orphanages and refugee centers. It submitted a first implementation report in 1994, but didn't provide progress assessments for nearly two decades, until 2012.
Newtown gunman apparently called Oregon radio station a year earlier, brought up chimp attack
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — The man who carried out the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre apparently called a radio station a year earlier to discuss the 2009 mauling of a Connecticut woman by a chimpanzee.
The caller believed to be Adam Lanza speaks softly on a show on the University of Oregon's campus radio station and blames "civilization" for the animal's attack.
It would be the first known public recording of Lanza's voice. The 20-year-old man killed 20 children and six adults at the school in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012. He also shot his mother to death inside their home before driving to the school and took his own life as police arrived.
A person with the username "Smiggles" describes making the call afterward in a Web posting. State police documents refer to instant messages from "Smiggles" as presumably being from the Sandy Hook gunman.
A former classmate, Kyle Kromberg, told the New York Daily News that he recognized the voice as Lanza's.
Police in Indiana grocery store where worker, shopper were killed found manager on his knees
ELKHART, Ind. (AP) — The manager of an Indiana grocery store where a shopper and employee had just been fatally shot was on his knees in front of the gunman and appeared to be praying when police entered, catching the shooter's eye and giving the manager enough time to run.
That split-second diversion likely saved the manager's life and enabled police to chase down Shawn Walter Bair and kill him Wednesday night before anyone else in the Martin's Super Market was harmed.
With the gunman distracted, the manager ran down a store aisle, Indiana State Police Sgt. Trent Smith said at a news conference Thursday. Bair then ran down a parallel aisle before stopping and doing something with his gun and pulling out a large knife. Officers clearing people from the store suddenly found themselves 10 feet away and shot him, Smith said.
Officers found the bodies of 20-year-old Krystle Dikes of Elkhart, who had just recently started working at Martin's, and 44-year-old customer Rachelle Godfread of Elkhart about 12 aisles apart. Godfread was shot multiple times, Smith said.
Police were still seeking a motive, even as a few details about the gunman started to emerge.
Amid gains for gay rights, anti-gay laws and attitudes remain entrenched in many countries
While gay-rights activists celebrate gains in much of the world, their setbacks have been equally far-flung, and often sweeping in scope.
In Russia, a new law against "gay propaganda" has left gays and lesbians unsure of what public actions they can take without risking arrest. In India, gay-rights supporters were stunned by a recent high court ruling re-criminalizing gay sex. A newly signed law in Nigeria sets 10-year prison terms for joining or promoting any gay organization, while a pending bill in Uganda would impose life sentences for some types of gay sex.
In such countries, repression of gays is depicted by political leaders as a defense of traditional values. The measures often have broad support from religious leaders and the public, limiting the impact of criticism from outsiders. The upshot: A world likely to be bitterly divided over gay rights for years to come.
Globally, the contrasts are striking. Sixteen countries have legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, including Canada, South Africa, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and New Zealand as well as 10 European nations, and gay marriage is legal in parts of the United States and Mexico. Yet at least 76 countries retain laws criminalizing gay sex, including five where it's punishable by death.
Here's a look at major regions where the gay-rights movement remains embattled or marginalized:
Google's contact lens glucose monitor prototype could end finger pricks for diabetics
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — Google unveiled Thursday a contact lens that monitors glucose levels in tears, a potential reprieve for millions of diabetics who have to jab their fingers to draw their own blood as many as 10 times a day.
The prototype, which Google says will take at least five years to reach consumers, is one of several medical devices being designed by companies to make glucose monitoring for diabetic patients more convenient and less invasive than the traditional finger pricks.
The lenses use a minuscule glucose sensor and a wireless transmitter to help those among the world's 382 million diabetics who need insulin keep a close watch on their blood sugar and adjust their dose.
The contact lenses were developed during the past 18 months in the clandestine Google X lab that also came up with a driverless car, Google's Web-surfing eyeglasses and Project Loon, a network of large balloons designed to beam the Internet to unwired places.
But research on the contact lenses began several years earlier at the University of Washington, where scientists worked under National Science Foundation funding. Until Thursday, when Google shared the project with The Associated Press, their work had been kept under wraps.
Russell Johnson, 'Gilligan' professor, has died at age 89
NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Russell Johnson, who became known to generations of TV fans as "The Professor," the fix-it man who kept his fellow "Gilligan's Island" castaways supplied with gadgets, has died. He was 89.
Johnson died Thursday morning at his home in Washington State of natural causes, said his agent, Mike Eisenstadt.
Johnson was a busy but little-known character actor when he was cast in the slapstick 1960s comedy about seven people marooned on an uncharted Pacific island.
He played high school science teacher Roy Hinkley, known to his fellow castaways as The Professor. There was seemingly nothing he couldn't do when it came to building generators, short-wave radios and other contraptions from scraps of flotsam and jetsam he found on the island. But, as Russell would joke years later, the one thing The Professor never accomplished was figuring out how to patch the hole in the bottom of the S.S. Minnow so the group could get back to civilization.
During its three-season run on CBS, critics repeatedly lambasted the show as insipid. But after its cancellation in 1967, it found generations of new fans in reruns and reunion movies.
MLB OKs expanded instant replay starting this season, but 'neighborhood' plays exempt at 2nd
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. (AP) — Ever since the game was invented, before television or even radio existed, baseball counted on the eyes and ears of umpires on the field. Starting this season, many key decisions will be made in a studio far away.
Major League Baseball vaulted into the 21st century of technology on Thursday, approving a huge expansion of instant replay in hopes of eliminating blown calls that riled up players, managers and fans.
"I think it's great," San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's about getting it right."
Acknowledging the human element had been overtaken in an era when everyone except the umps could see several views over and over in slow-motion, owners and players and umpires OKed the new system.
Now each manager will be allowed to challenge at least one call per game. If he's right, he gets another challenge. After the seventh inning, a crew chief can request a review on his own if the manager has used his challenges.