Obama seeks to move US beyond war years but keep drones, outlining a narrower terror threat
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama sought Thursday to advance the U.S. beyond the unrelenting war effort of the past dozen years, defining a narrower terror threat from smaller networks and homegrown extremists rather than the grandiose plots of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida.
In a lengthy address at the National Defense University, Obama defended his controversial drone-strikes program as a linchpin of the U.S. response to the evolving dangers. He also argued that changing threats require changes to the nation's counterterrorism policies.
Obama implored Congress to close the much-maligned Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba and pledged to allow greater oversight of the drone program. But he plans to keep the most lethal efforts with the unmanned aircraft under the control of the CIA.
He offered his most vigorous public defense yet of drone strikes as legal, effective and necessary as terror threats progress.
"Neither I, nor any president, can promise the total defeat of terror," Obama told his audience of students, national security and human rights experts and counterterror officials. "What we can do — what we must do — is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend."
Boy Scouts approve plan to accept openly gay boys as Scouts; ban on gay adult leaders remains
GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) — The Boy Scouts of America threw open its ranks Thursday to gay Scouts but not gay Scout leaders — a fiercely contested compromise that some warned could fracture the organization and lead to mass defections of members and donors.
Of the roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA's National Council who cast ballots, 61 percent supported the proposal drafted by the governing Executive Committee. The policy change takes effect Jan. 1.
"This has been a challenging chapter in our history," the BSA chief executive, Wayne Brock, said after the vote. "While people have differing opinions on this policy, kids are better off when they're in Scouting."
However, the outcome will not end the bitter debate over the Scouts' membership policy.
Liberal Scout leaders — while supporting the proposal to accept gay youth — have made clear they want the ban on gay adults lifted as well.
10 Things to Know for Friday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:
1. HOW OBAMA IS DEFENDING DRONE STRIKES
The attacks are legal, effective and necessary as threats evolve, he says in a speech outlining America's post-war counterterror policies.
State Patrol: I-5 bridge over Skagit River collapses in NW Wash; vehicles, people in water
MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) — The Washington State Patrol says the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River at Mount Vernon has collapsed, dumping vehicles and people into the water.
Trooper Mark Francis said the four-lane bridge collapsed about 7 p.m.
Francis says he has no idea how many people are in the water or whether there are any injuries or deaths.
He did not know what caused the collapse.
Muslim hard-liners ID suspect seen in video after British soldier killed in London
LONDON (AP) — A man seen with bloody hands wielding a butcher knife after the killing of a British soldier on the streets of London was described as a convert to Islam who took part in demonstrations with a banned radical group, two Muslim hard-liners said Thursday.
Police raided houses in connection with the brazen slaying of the off-duty soldier, identified as Lee Rigby, of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who served in Afghanistan. In addition to the two suspects who were hospitalized after being shot by police, authorities said they had arrested a man and a woman, both 29, on suspicion of conspiracy to murder.
Police would not say whether it appeared Rigby had been targeted specifically because of his military service. Although he was not in uniform at the time he was killed, he was said by witnesses to be wearing a T-shirt for a British veterans' charity.
Authorities have not identified either of the two wounded suspects and have not said when they would do so. Officials in Britain usually wait to name suspects until charges have been filed.
Anjem Choudary, the former head of the radical group al-Muhajiroun, told The Associated Press that the man depicted in startling video that emerged after Rigby's death was named Michael Adebolajo, a Christian who converted to Islam around 2003 and took part in several demonstrations by the group in London.
Extremists claim responsibility for twin suicide attacks in Niger; 26 dead, soldiers hostage
NIAMEY, Niger (AP) — Suicide bombers in Niger detonated two car bombs simultaneously, one inside a military camp in the city of Agadez and another in the remote town of Arlit at a French-operated uranium mine, killing 26 people and injuring 30, according to officials in Niger and France. A surviving attacker took a group of soldiers hostage, and authorities were attempting to negotiate their release.
The attack in Arlit was claimed by Moktar Belmoktar, the extremist who led the attack on a natural gas plant in Ain Amenas in Algeria in January, according to a communique posted on jihadist forums.
Both attacks were claimed by a spinoff of al-Qaida, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, which earlier vowed to avenge the four-month-old French-led military intervention which ousted them from neighboring Mali's north.
The timing of the attacks, which occurred at the same moment more than 160 kilometers (100 miles) apart, and the fact that the bombers were able to penetrate both a well-guarded military installation and a sensitive, foreign-operated uranium mine, highlight the growing reach and sophistication of the Islamic extremists based in Mali.
The bomb blasts are the most damaging attacks by the jihadists to date.
IRS replaces official who supervised agents involved in targeting tea party groups
WASHINGTON (AP) — Moving quickly to stem a raging controversy, the new acting head of the Internal Revenue Service started cleaning house Thursday by replacing the supervisor who oversaw agents involved in targeting tea party groups.
A day after she refused to answer questions at a congressional hearing, Lois Lerner was placed on administrative leave, according to congressional sources.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said Lerner was asked to resign but refused, so she was placed on leave. An IRS spokeswoman said the agency could not comment on Lerner's status because it was a private personnel matter.
Danny Werfel, the agency's new acting commissioner, told IRS employees in an email that he had selected a new acting head of the division, staying within the IRS to find new leadership.
Ken Corbin, a 27-year IRS veteran, will be the new acting director of the agency's exempt organizations division. Corbin currently is a deputy director in the wage and investment division, where he oversees 17,000 workers responsible for processing 172 million individual and business tax returns, Werfel said.
How sweet it isn't: Scientists learn how some roaches evolve to avoid poison — in just 5 years
NEW YORK (AP) — For decades, people have been getting rid of cockroaches by setting out bait mixed with poison. But in the late 1980s, in an apartment test kitchen in Florida, something went very wrong.
A killer product stopped working. Cockroach populations there kept rising. Mystified researchers tested and discarded theory after theory until they finally hit on the explanation: In a remarkably rapid display of evolution at work, many of the cockroaches had lost their sweet tooth, rejecting the corn syrup meant to attract them.
In as little as five years, the sugar-rejecting trait had become so widespread that the bait had been rendered useless.
"Cockroaches are highly adaptive, and they're doing pretty well in the arms race with us," said North Carolina State University entomologist Jules Silverman, discoverer of the glucose aversion in that Florida kitchen during a bait test.
The findings illustrate the evolutionary prowess that has helped make cockroaches so hard to stamp out that it is jokingly suggested they could survive nuclear war.
Chinua Achebe, remembered as fearless writer in uncertain times in Nigeria, buried in hometown
OGIDI, Nigeria (AP) — Writer Chinua Achebe shunned Nigeria's corrupt politicians and twice turned down national honors, never fearing to criticize those he felt ruined his country. On Thursday, however, the lawmakers and the country's elite came to praise him.
Hundreds attended Achebe's funeral among the rolling hills of his eastern Nigeria home, a service that saw President Goodluck Jonathan literally hold up the writer's books. The gold plaque on his coffin simply called him the "eagle atop the Iroko tree" in his native Igbo language.
It was a fitting tribute to the respect Achebe carried among the people here and for many others around the world who knew him through his books, which many say is the first African voice heard in modern literature.
"Chinua Achebe gave Africa its confidence," said Emeka Anyaoku, an Igbo elder.
Achebe rose to acclaim with the publication of his 1958 classic novel "Things Fall Apart," a parable for the collapse of traditional society in Africa on the arrival of colonialists. The journalist's tense, short sentences recalled Ernest Hemingway, but offered a vision of Igbo culture before British rule ultimately united the regions that now form modern Nigeria.
Jury deadlocks on life term or death for Arias as judge schedules new trial in penalty phase
PHOENIX (AP) — Jurors who spent five months determining Jodi Arias' fate couldn't decide whether she should get life in prison or die for murdering her boyfriend, sending prosecutors back to the drawing board to rehash the shocking case of sex, lies and violence to another 12 people.
Judge Sherry Stephens gave a heavy sigh as she announced a mistrial in the penalty phase of the case Thursday and scheduled a July 18 retrial.
"This was not your typical trial," she told jurors. "You were asked to perform some very difficult duties."
The panel then filed out of the courtroom after 13 hours of deliberation that spanned three days, with one female juror turning to the victim's family and mouthing, "Sorry." She and two other women on the jury were crying.
None of the jurors commented as they left court.