Monday, February 4, 2013

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News,Science and Technology

President signs bill raising federal debt ceiling, setting up another clash later this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill raising the government's borrowing limit, averting a default and delaying the next clash over the nation's debt until later this year.

The legislation temporarily suspends the $16.4 trillion limit on federal borrowing. Experts say that will allow the government to borrow about $450 billion to meet interest payments and other obligations.

The Senate gave the bill final approval last week and sent it to Obama, who signed it Monday shortly after returning from Minneapolis.

Democrats and Obama had warned that failure to pass the bill could set off financial panic and threaten the economic recovery.

The bill includes a provision attached by House Republicans that temporarily withholds lawmakers' pay in either chamber that fails to produce a budget plan.

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Obama stands firm behind his gun control demands despite long odds for assault weapons ban

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — President Barack Obama declared Monday on his first trip outside Washington to promote gun control that a consensus is emerging for universal background checks for purchasers, though he conceded a tough road lay ahead to pass an assault weapons ban over formidable opposition in Congress.

"We should restore the ban on military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines," Obama said in a brief speech, standing firm on his full package on gun-control measures despite long odds. Such a ban "deserves a vote in Congress because weapons of war have no place on our streets or in our schools or threatening our law enforcement officers."

The president spoke from a special police operations center in a city once known to some as "Murderapolis" but where gun violence has dropped amid a push to address it from city leaders. Officers stood behind him, dressed in crisp uniforms of blue, white and brown.

The site conveyed Obama's message that a reduction in violence can be achieved nationally, even if Americans have sharp disagreements over gun control. That includes among members of his own party in Washington.

Suggesting he won't get all he's proposing, he said, "We don't have to agree on everything to agree it's time to do something."

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10 Things to Know for Tuesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday:

1. BOY FREED FROM UNDERGROUND BUNKER IN ALABAMA

Authorities storm the hideout after deciding that the kidnapper posed an imminent danger to his 5-year-old captive. After the assault, the abductor is found dead.

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Authorities storm underground bunker in Alabama, rescue 5-year-old boy; abductor is dead

MIDLAND CITY, Ala. (AP) — Authorities stormed an underground bunker Monday in southeastern Alabama, freeing a 5-year-old boy and leaving his captor dead after a week of fruitless negotiations that left authorities convinced the child was in imminent danger.

Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, had taken the child off a school bus after fatally shooting the driver, authorities said. He was known by neighbors for his anti-government rants and for patrolling his property with a gun, ready to shoot trespassers. He had stayed for several days in the tiny bunker before.

"He always said he'd never be taken alive. I knew he'd never come out of there," said an acquaintance, Roger Arnold.

Dykes had been seen with a gun, and officers concluded the boy was in imminent danger, said Steve Richardson of the FBI's office in Mobile. It was not immediately clear how authorities determined the man had a gun, or exactly how Dykes died.

Monday evening, officers were sweeping the property to make sure Dykes had not set up any bombs that could detonate. Full details of the bunker raid had not yet emerged. However, neighbors described hearing what sounded like gunshots around the time officials said they entered the shelter.

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Passenger describes terrifying ride on runaway bus before California mountain crash

YUCAIPA, Calif. (AP) — The bus full of tired tourists returning to Tijuana, Mexico, was slowly winding its way down a mountain road after a day playing in the snow at the ski resort town of Big Bear when it suddenly picked up speed. The driver shouted to call 911 — the brakes had failed.

As passengers frantically tried to get a cellphone signal, a group of teenage girls shrieked and prayed aloud as others cried and shielded their heads as they careened downhill.

The bus rear-ended a Saturn sedan, swerved, flipped and slid on its side. A Ford pickup in the oncoming lane plowed into it, righting the bus and tossing passengers out shattered windows before it came to a halt.

"Everything happened so fast. When the bus spun everything flew, even the people," said Gerardo Barrientos, who was next to his girlfriend one minute and then scrambling out of the wreckage the next trying to find her and a friend in the highway. Both were injured but alive.

Seven people were killed and about three dozen injured Sunday night in the accident 80 miles east of Los Angeles. The dead included 13-year-old Victor Cabrera-Garcia; Elvira Garcia Jimenez, 40; and Guadalupe Olivas, 61, all of San Diego; along with Aleida Adriana Arce Hernandez, 38, and Rubicelia Escobedo Flores, 34, both of Tijuana, San Bernardino County coroner's supervisor Tony Campisi said.

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New US Secretary of State John Kerry warns of consequences if NKorea conducts 3rd nuclear test

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — New U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his South Korean counterpart have agreed to make sure North Korea is punished if it carries out its threat to conduct a nuclear test. Amid signs that such a test is coming, South Korea's president also speculated that Pyongyang may detonate multiple atomic devices simultaneously.

Under a U.N. Security Council resolution last month condemning a North Korean long-range rocket launch that the U.N. and others call a disguised test of banned missile technology, Pyongyang is subject to new sanctions if it detonates its third nuclear device since 2006.

North Korea announced last month that it will conduct a nuclear test to protest the toughened sanctions over its December launch, which delivered a satellite into orbit.

During a phone conversation between Kerry and South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, "there was agreement that ... if the DPRK continues its provocative behavior and takes further steps, that there must be further consequences," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday. DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

North Korea may simultaneously conduct multiple nuclear tests as it tries to create a warhead small enough to fit atop a long-range missile, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told the South Korean newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, in an interview published Tuesday. Lee did not say whether his comments were based on intelligence findings.

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Records: Vet charged in Texas shooting deaths had been in mental hospital, said he had PTSD

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The Iraq War veteran charged with killing a former Navy SEAL sniper and his friend on a Texas shooting range had been taken to a mental hospital twice in the past five months and told authorities he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, police records show.

Eddie Ray Routh, 25, also told his sister and brother-in-law after the shootings that he "traded his soul for a new truck," according to an Erath County arrest warrant affidavit obtained by WFAA-TV. Police said Routh was driving the truck of victim and ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle at the time of his arrest.

Routh is charged with one count of capital murder and two counts of murder in the shooting deaths of Kyle, author of the best-selling book "American Sniper," and his friend Chad Littlefield at a shooting range Saturday in Glen Rose. He is on suicide watch in the Erath County Jail, where he's being held on $3 million bail, Sheriff Tommy Bryant said.

Routh, a member of the Marines Corps Reserve, was first taken to a mental hospital Sept. 2 after he threatened to kill his family and himself, according to police records in Lancaster, where Routh lives. Authorities found Routh walking nearby with no shirt and no shoes, and smelling of alcohol. Routh told authorities he was a Marine veteran who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Eddie stated he was hurting and that his family does not understand what he has been through," the report says.

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S&P says it expects to be sued by Justice Department over its ratings of mortgage-backed bonds

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government is expected to file civil charges against Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, alleging that it improperly gave high ratings to mortgage debt that later plunged in value and helped fuel the 2008 financial crisis.

The charges would mark the first enforcement action the government has taken against a major rating agency involving the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

S&P said Monday that the Justice Department had informed the rating agency that it intends to file a civil lawsuit focusing on S&P's ratings of mortgage debt in 2007.

The action does not involve any criminal allegations. Critics have long complained about the government's failure to bring criminal charges against any major Wall Street players involved in the financial crisis. Criminal charges would require a higher burden of proof and carry the threat of jail time.

If S&P is eventually found to have committed civil violations, it could face fines and limits on how it does business.

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New carbon dating suggests Neanderthals died out earlier, may not have lived alongside humans

BERLIN (AP) — Theories about when the last Neanderthals walked the Earth may have to be revised, according to a study that suggests they became extinct in their last refuge in Spain much earlier than previously thought.

Previous dating of bone fossils found at Neanderthal sites in the region put the youngest at about 35,000 years.

But researchers from Australia and Europe re-examined the bones using an improved method to filter out contamination and concluded that the remains are about 50,000 years old.

If true, the study, casts doubt on the idea that modern humans and Neanderthals co-existed — and possibly even interbred — for millennia, because humans aren't believed to have settled in the region until 42,000 years ago.

"The results of our study suggest that there are major problems with the dating of the last Neanderthals in modern-day Spain," said Thomas Higham, deputy director of the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at Oxford University in England. "It is unlikely that Neanderthals survived any later in this area than they did elsewhere in mainland Europe."

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Officials in New Orleans say cause of Super Bowl's 34-minute power outage remains unclear

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Who turned out the lights?

The day after the 34-minute blackout at the Super Bowl, the exact cause — and who's to blame — were unclear.

Although the cause of the blackout remains under investigation, a couple of potential culprits had been ruled out.

It wasn't Beyonce's electrifying halftime performance, according to Doug Thornton, manager of the state-owned Superdome, since the singer had her own generator. And it apparently wasn't a case of too much demand for power. Meters showed the 76,000-seat stadium was drawing no more electricity than it does during a typical New Orleans Saints game, Thornton said.

However, documents released Monday by the state board that oversees the Superdome show that stadium officials were worried about a power outage several months before the big game.

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