Friday May 24, 2013

Obama says attorney general will review guidelines in media leaks investigations

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama said Thursday that the Justice Department will review the policy under which it obtains journalists’ records in investigations of the leak of government secrets.

Obama acknowledged he is "troubled by the possibility that leaks investigations may chill the investigative journalism" that he says holds government accountable and said he has expressed his concerns to Attorney General Eric Holder. But he said his administration would continue to try to find the government employees who are responsible for leaks.

In recent weeks, the administration has acknowledged secretly seizing portions of two months of phone records from The Associated Press and reading the e-mails of Fox News reporter James Rosen in separate investigations about the publication of government secrets.

The president said the government has to strike the right balance between security and an open society. He said Holder will meet with representatives of media organizations and report back to him by July 12.

Obama re-stated his support for a media shield law that he said would "guard against government overreach." Such a law would require a federal judge to sign off before investigators could have a look at the records of journalists.

IRS replaces official who supervised agents involved in targeting tea party groups

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A day after she refused to answer questions at a congressional hearing, Lois Lerner has been replaced as director the Internal Revenue Service division that oversaw agents who targeted tea party groups.

Danny Werfel, the agency’s new acting commissioner, told IRS employees in an email Thursday that he has selected a new acting head of the division.

Ken Corbin will be the acting director of the agency’s exempt organizations division. Corbin is currently deputy director of submission processing in the wage and investment division.

A congressional aide said Lerner has been placed on administrative leave. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a personnel matter.

Fighting between Assad backers, opponents in Lebanon feeds fears that war is spreading

BEIRUT (AP) -- Lebanese supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad fired heavy machine guns and lobbed mortar shells at each other Thursday in some of the worst fighting in the port city of Tripoli in years.

The battles raised the five-day death toll to 16 and fed fears of the Syrian civil war spreading to Lebanon and other neighboring countries.

The violence also added to the urgency to U.S.-Russian efforts to bring both sides of the Syrian conflict to a peace conference in Geneva. Members of the Syrian opposition began three day meetings in Istanbul to hash out a unified position on whether to attend, while maintaining that Assad’s departure from power should be the goals of the negotiations.

Lebanon has been on edge since the uprising in Syria began in March 2011. The country, which is still struggling to recover from its own 15-year civil war, is sharply divided along sectarian lines and into pro and anti-Assad camps. The overt involvement by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah Shiite militant group alongside Assad’s regime has sparked outrage among many Sunnis in Lebanon who identify with the overwhelmingly Sunni rebels fighting to topple Assad.

Deadly sectarian street fighting has erupted on several occasions, mostly in Tripoli, Lebanon’s largest city and a hotbed for Sunni Islamists. This week’s fighting there has been linked to a Syrian regime offensive against the rebel-held city of Qusair in western Syria that has included Hezbollah fighters supporting Syrian troops against the rebels.

Obama defends drone strikes overseas but says they’re no cure-all in fighting terrorists

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama on Thursday defended America’s controversial drone attacks as legal, effective and a necessary linchpin in an evolving U.S. counterterrorism policy. But he acknowledged the targeted strikes are no "cure-all" and said he is haunted by the civilians unintentionally killed.

The president also announced a renewed push to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, including lifting a moratorium on prisoner transfers to Yemen. However, shutting the prison will still require help from Republicans reluctant to back Obama’s call to move some detainees to U.S. prisons and try them in civilian courts.

Obama framed his address as an attempt to redefine the nature and scope of terror threats facing the U.S., noting the weakening of al-Qaida and the impending end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

"Neither I, nor any president, can promise the total defeat of terror," Obama said in remarks at the National Defense University. "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."

Since taking office, Obama’s counterterrorism strategy has increasingly relied on the use of unmanned spy drones, particularly in Pakistan and Yemen. The highly secretive program has faced criticism from congressional lawmakers who have questioned its scope and legality.

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.

McDonald’s offers Ohio kidnap case hero free food for a year, donates $10K in victims’ names

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The man who famously put down his Big Mac to help rescue three women held captive for years in a Cleveland house will get free McDonald’s for the next year, a company spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.

Local franchisees in Charles Ramsey’s neighborhood have offered him free food at their restaurants, said Heidi Barker, a spokeswoman for Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s Corp.

Ramsey was called a hero after helping Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight break out of the house May 6. Homeowner Ariel Castro faces charges. His defense team has said he will plead not guilty.

Ramsey had noted in an interview with a local TV station that he was eating McDonald’s when the scene unfolded. He also spoke of it in a 911 call. Both the interview and the call quickly became popular online, and McDonald’s caught wind of Ramsey’s mentions.

The world’s biggest hamburger company had said a day after the rescue on Twitter: "We salute the courage of Ohio kidnap victims & respect their privacy. Way to go Charles Ramsey -- we’ll be in touch."

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. Officials in Britain usually wait to name suspects until charges have been filed.

Anjem Choudary, the former head of the radical group al-Muhajiroun, said 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.