AP News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Jan 04, 2010 6:07 PM

Some world airports slow to implement new US rules for certain air travelers

On the first day of what was supposed to be tighter screening ordered by the U.S. for airline passengers from certain countries, some airports around the world conceded Monday they had not cracked down.

The United States demanded more careful screening for people who are citizens of, or are flying from, 14 nations deemed security risks. But enforcement of the U.S. rules appeared spotty.

"Everything is the same. There is no extra security," said an aviation official in Lebanon, one of the countries on the list. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The Obama administration ordered the changes after what authorities say was a failed attempt by a Nigerian man to blow up a jetliner bound from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said the enhanced screening techniques would include full-body pat-downs, searches of carry-on bags, full-body scanning and explosive-detection technology.

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Gunman opens fire at Vegas federal building, killing court officer before he was shot to death

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ A man dressed in black walked into a federal building Monday in downtown Las Vegas and opened fire with a shotgun, killing a court security guard and wounding a U.S. marshal before he was shot to death in a running gunbattle.

The gunfire erupted moments after 8 a.m. at the start of the work week and lasted for several minutes. Shots echoed around tall buildings in the area, more than a mile north of the Las Vegas Strip. An Associated Press reporter on the eighth floor of a high-rise within sight of the federal building heard a sustained barrage of gunfire.

A passer-by said he counted at least 40 shots.

"The first shot that I heard was a shotgun blast. I knew it wasn't fireworks," said Ray Freres, 59, a sandwich shop manager and Vietnam veteran who said he was behind the federal court building at the time.

"I heard an exchange of gunfire. I was watching the street," Freres told the AP. "If they were coming my way, I was going the other way."

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AP sources: Bomber who killed 8 at CIA base was a Jordanian recruited to spy against al-Qaida

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The suicide bomber who killed eight people inside a CIA base in eastern Afghanistan last week was a Jordanian doctor recruited by Jordanian intelligence, a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a foreign government official confirmed Monday.

The bombing killed seven CIA employees_ four officers and three contracted security guards_ and a Jordanian intelligence officer, Ali bin Zaid, according to a second former U.S. intelligence official. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the incident.

The former senior intelligence official and the foreign official said the bomber was Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a 36-year old doctor from Zarqa, Jordan. NBC News first reported the bomber's identity.

He was arrested more than a year ago by Jordanian intelligence and was thought to have been persuaded to support U.S. and Jordanian efforts against al-Qaida, according to the NBC report. He was invited to Camp Chapman, a tightly secured CIA forward base in Khost province on the fractious Afghan-Pakistan frontier, because he was offering urgent information to track down Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's right-hand man.

Hajj Yacoub, a self-proclaimed spokesman for the Taliban in Pakistan, identified the bomber on Muslim militant Web sites as Hammam Khalil Mohammed, also known as Abu-Dujana al-Khurasani. There was no independent confirmation of Yacoub's statement.

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Democrats will bypass traditional format _ and GOP lawmakers _ on health overhaul compromise

WASHINGTON (AP) _ House and Senate Democrats intend to bypass traditional procedures when they negotiate a final compromise on health care legislation, officials said Monday, a move that will exclude Republican lawmakers and reduce their ability to delay or force politically troubling votes in both houses.

The unofficial timetable calls for final passage of the measure to remake the nation's health care system by the time President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address, probably in early February.

Democratic aides said the final compromise talks would essentially be a three-way negotiation involving top Democrats in the House and Senate and the White House, a structure that gives unusual latitude to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.

These officials said there are no plans to appoint a formal House-Senate conference committee, the method Congress most often uses to reconcile differing bills. Under that customary format, a committee chairman is appointed to preside, and other senior lawmakers from both parties and houses participate in typically perfunctory public meetings while the meaningful negotiations occur behind closed doors.

In this case, the plan is to skip the formal meetings, reach an agreement, then have the two houses vote as quickly as possible. A 60-vote Senate majority would be required in advance of final passage.

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US backs Yemen's president in fight against al-Qaida; 2 militants killed in clash

SAN'A, Yemen (AP) _ Yemeni security forces clashed with al-Qaida fighters Monday, killing two, the latest sign the embattled, longtime president is making good on vows that his country will cooperate with the United States in fighting the terror network.

Washington is embracing Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the battle against al-Qaida's offshoot here, but it may be making a risky bet. The mercurial Saleh has held onto power for 31 years in this fragmented nation by relying on a system of manipulation _ centralizing power within his family while buying off rivals and unruly tribesmen, Yemeni and American observers say.

At times, that has meant forging alliances with Islamic extremists, and Saleh has frustrated U.S. officials in recent years by freeing jailed al-Qaida figures on promises they would not engage in terrorism. Several top militants have since broken those promises.

Observers warn that Saleh's rule is buckling under the weight of multiple crises, deep poverty and widespread corruption. The government has full control only around the capital, leaving much of the mountainous nation to heavily armed tribes, some of which have given refuge to al-Qaida fighters.

"Saleh is facing the most difficult time of his presidency," said Ali Seif Hassan, director of a Yemeni organization that mediates government-opposition dialogue.

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A third person got through White House security without being on guest list for state dinner

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A third uninvited guest made his way into the White House state dinner for India's prime minister in November, the Secret Service said Monday.

As the Secret Service was reviewing how an attention-hungry couple _ Tareq and Michaele Salahi _ got into the dinner without being on the guest list, officials discovered that a third person made it through security without an invitation as well. The Secret Service said the man _ whom they would not identify _ did not get close to the president or the first lady.

The Secret Service is investigating the Salahis, and the Justice Department is looking into whether they broke any laws. The Secret Service said the other man they just learned of is now under investigation as well.

The man traveled to the White House from the hotel where the Indian delegation was staying. The Secret Service said the man arrived with members of that delegation. But he was not in the Secret Service's database of people prescreened and approved to attend the event. Part of the security screening is a criminal background check that the Secret Service does before a guest enters the White House. The Salahis and the man traveling with the Indian delegation did not go through that background check.

But the Secret Service said all three uninvited guests went through other screening, such as metal detectors, before the event.

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Disgraced Miss. judge reports to federal prison for lying to FBI in bribery investigation

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Bobby DeLaughter, a former Mississippi prosecutor and judge whose legal conquests became the subject of books and a movie, reported to federal prison Monday for lying to the FBI in a judicial bribery investigation.

The next chapter of DeLaughter's life, as inmate No. 12930-042, marks a long fall from the height of his legal career in 1994 when he was a prosecutor who helped convict a civil rights-era assassin for the 30-year-old murder of NAACP leader Medgar Evers.

The 55-year-old DeLaughter (deh-LAW'-ter) reported to a federal prison camp in Pine Knot, Ky., before his 2 p.m. deadline, said Federal Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Felicia Ponce.

The prison has a medium-security facility and minimum-security camp, though Ponce said she did not know how DeLaughter would be classified. All inmates in the federal system must work if they are physically able, with jobs ranging from cooks to groundskeepers, she said.

Prisoners make from 12 cents to 40 cents an hour depending on the job and their experience.

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NASA's new planet-hunting telescope finds two new mystery objects, unlike stars or planets

WASHINGTON (AP) _ NASA's new planet-hunting telescope has found two mystery objects that are too hot to be planets and too small to be stars.

The Kepler Telescope, launched in March, discovered the two new heavenly bodies, each circling its own star. Telescope chief scientist Bill Borucki of NASA said the objects are thousands of degrees hotter than the stars they circle. That means they probably aren't planets. They are bigger and hotter than planets in our solar system, including dwarf planets.

"The universe keeps making strange things stranger than we can think of in our imagination," said Jon Morse, head of astrophysics for NASA.

The new discoveries don't quite fit into any definition of known astronomical objects, and so far don't have a classification of their own. Details about the mystery objects were presented Monday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington.

For now, NASA researcher Jason Rowe, who found the objects, said he calls them "hot companions."

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Big stock rally on year's first trading day augurs well for rest of 2010 _ maybe

NEW YORK (AP) _ If the stock market holds to a pattern it has followed for most of the past 40 years, 2010 could be a big year for investors.

Since 1973, a big advance on the first trading day of January has been a strong sign stocks will post robust gains for the rest of the year.

On Monday, upbeat news about manufacturing lifted the Dow Jones industrial average 155 points, or 1.5 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 17 points, or 1.6 percent.

When the S&P 500 has gained more than 1 percent on the first day of trading, the index has ended the year higher 86 percent of the time, according to Schaeffer's Investment Research.

After a big first day, the average yearly gain in the S&P 500 index has been 14.7 percent. That's important because the index is the yardstick for the overall market and for many investments such as mutual funds.

Still, trying to predict the year based on the first day of trading is dicey. Over the past 20 years, the S&P 500's first-day move regardless of its size correlated with how the index finished the year just 11 times. Six of those years saw the market advance, while five saw it slide.

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Ex-Broncos coach Shanahan flies to DC to discuss Redskins job after Zorn's dismissal

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) _ The Washington Redskins moved quickly in their pursuit of Mike Shanahan on Monday, flying in the former Denver Broncos coach on the same day the team fired Jim Zorn.

Shanahan landed at Dulles International Airport near Redskins Park in mid-afternoon and was driven away in a limousine to meet with owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen.

Shanahan's arrival was just one dramatic movement in a fast-moving day as the Redskins sought a new direction after a 4-12 season. It started when Zorn was dismissed in the pre-dawn hours after Sunday's 23-20 loss at San Diego.

"It's real clear that we're going to be aggressive," Allen said. "What we're looking for in a head coach is somebody who can lead these men that we had in our locker room this year to levels they've haven't played through before."

Shanahan won two Super Bowls in 14 seasons with the Broncos. He was fired a year ago after Denver missed the playoffs for the third straight season.