Talking tough, Kerry rejects Syria’s offer on chemical weapons in opening meeting with Russia
GENEVA (AP) -- Striking a tough tone, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry opened swiftly convened talks with Russia on Syria’s chemical weapons Thursday by bluntly rejecting a Syrian pledge to begin a "standard process" by turning over information rather than weapons -- and nothing immediately.
That won’t do, Kerry declared at an opening news conference, a stone-faced Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at his side. "The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough."
"This is not a game," Kerry said of the latest developments in a series that has rapidly gone from deadly chemical attacks to threats of retaliatory U.S. air strikes to Syrian agreement with a Russian plan to turn over the weapons and, finally, to the crucial matter of working out the difficult details.
"We believe there is nothing standard about this process at this moment because of the way the regime has behaved," Kerry declared. And he kept alive the threat of U.S. military action, saying the turnover of weapons must be complete, verifiable and timely -- "and finally, there ought to consequences if it doesn’t take place."
Adding to the drama, Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in from afar, raising eyebrows with an opinion piece in The New York Times that chided Americans for seeing themselves as "exceptional." That was an apparent reference to a comment President Barack Obama made in his Syria speech Tuesday night, explaining why he felt the U.S. needed to take action. Congress has shown little inclination to authorize military action, and a vote on that has been put off.
Assad: Syria to submit data on its chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing convention
BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad publicly agreed Thursday to a Russian plan to secure and destroy his chemical weapons, but said the proposal would work only if the U.S. halts threats of military action.
Assad also said his government will start submitting data on its chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing the convention banning such weapons, while the U.N. said Thursday that it received a letter from Syria stating its intention to join. The treaty states that a nation becomes a party 30 days after such a letter is submitted.
But American officials, meeting with their Russian counterparts in Geneva, insisted on a speedier Syrian accounting of their stockpiles.
Assad’s remarks to Russia’s state Rossiya 24 news channel were his first since the Russian plan was announced Monday as a way to avert a potential U.S. military strike in response to the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds near Damascus.
He said that Syria is relinquishing control over its chemical weapons because of Russia.
United Airlines accidentally posts $0 to $10 fares
For a little while on Thursday, United Airlines was giving away airplane tickets for free, or close to it.
Passengers reported buying tickets for $5 to $10 before United shut down the bookings on its website and phone centers to prevent more tickets from being sold or given away.
The airline said it accidentally filed some fares for $0. Airport charges might have resulted in a small cost seen by some passengers.
The website was accepting reservations again around 2:45 p.m. Central time.
Such fare mistakes have happened before, often when an airline dropped a digit when entering fares into its computer system.
That may be what happened here. United Continental Holdings Inc. spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said the mistake was due to an error in filing the fares, not a problem with the website. She said United doesn’t yet know how many tickets were sold at the unusually low prices.
Will United honor the tickets? The airline is thinking about it. "As always, we will do what is appropriate," McCarthy said.
On one day in 2008, United accidentally dropped a fuel surcharge that ran as high as $130. It honored the tickets sold without the surcharge.
Today, Social media such as Twitter ensures that word of mistake fares spreads even faster than before.
Heavy rains send water crashing down Colorado mountainsides; at least 3 are killed in deluge
LYONS, Colo. (AP) -- Heavy rains sent walls of water crashing down mountainsides Thursday in Colorado, cutting off remote towns, forcing the state’s largest university to close and leaving at least three people dead across a rugged landscape that included areas blackened by recent wildfires.
A storm system has been dropping rain on the region for much of the week. Up to 8 inches fell in an area spanning from the Wyoming border south to the foothills west of Denver. Flooding extended all along the Front Range mountains, including the cities of Colorado Springs, Denver, Fort Collins, Greeley, Aurora and Boulder.
Numerous roads were washed out or made impassable by floods. Parts of several interstate highways in the Denver area were closed for a time. Floodwaters poured into homes, and at least a few buildings collapsed in the torrent.
Boulder County appeared to be hardest hit. Sheriff Joe Pelle said the town of Lyons was completely cut off because of flooded roads, and residents were huddling together on higher ground. Although everyone was believed to be safe, the deluge was expected to continue into Friday.
"It is not an ordinary disaster," Pelle said. "All the preparation in the world ... it can’t put people up those canyons while these walls of water are coming down."
Officials says 32 boardwalk businesses burned
SEASIDE PARK, N.J. (AP) -- An official from the Jersey shore town where a raging boardwalk fire has been burning out of control says the blaze has taken out virtually all of the town’s boardwalk businesses.
Seaside Park Councilwoman Nancy Koury tells The Associated Press the Thursday fire took out about 32 businesses. She says no serious injuries have been reported.
Koury says the fire began in a frozen custard stand on the Seaside Park section of the boardwalk, and quickly spread north into neighboring Seaside Heights.
Firefighters are still trying to get the raging fire under control as flames leap into the sky and thick plumes of smoke blanket the beachfront.
The fire burned much of the boardwalk that was just rebuilt in time for Memorial Day after being wrecked by Superstorm Sandy.
Most Wanted American jihadi killed in Somalia, reports say; U.S. expert: ‘very likely true’
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- An American who became one of Somalia’s most visible Islamic rebels and was on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list with a $5 million bounty on his head was killed Thursday by rivals in the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab, militants said.
The killing of Omar Hammami, an Alabama native known for his rap-filled propaganda videos, may discourage other would-be jihadis from the U.S. and elsewhere from traveling to Somalia, terrorism experts said.
Hammami, whose nom de guerre was Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, or "the American," was killed in an ambush in southern Somalia following months on the run after falling out with al-Shabab’s top leader, the militants said.
Reports of Hammami’s death have cropped up every few months in Somalia, only for him to resurface. But J.M. Berger, a U.S. terrorism expert who closely follows the inner workings of al-Shabab, said he thinks the current reports are accurate.
The rebels did not immediately present proof of Hammami’s death.
Twitter says it has filed confidential documents for an initial public offering
NEW YORK (AP) -- Twitter is going public. The short messaging service aptly tweeted on Thursday it has filed confidential documents for an initial public offering of stock.
But the documents are sealed, as Twitter is taking advantage of federal legislation passed last year that allows companies with less than $1 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year to avoid submitting public IPO documents.
San Francisco-based Twitter Inc. posted on its official Twitter account Thursday afternoon that it has "confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO."
The confidentiality will likely help Twitter avoid the public hoopla that surrounded the initial public offerings of other high-profile social networking companies, including Facebook Inc., which went public in May 2012.
Twitter’s IPO has been long expected. The company has been ramping up its advertising products and working to boost ad revenue in preparation.
Scathing obituary about abusive Nevada mother goes viral after appearing in Reno newspaper
RENO, Nev. (AP) -- The children of an abusive woman whose horror stories prompted Nevada to become one of the first states to allow children to sever parental ties wrote a scathing obituary that was published in the local newspaper -- and has since become an Internet sensation.
The obituary opened with a harsh statement about the legacy of Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick: "On behalf of her children who she abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after-life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty and shame that she delivered on her children."
Katherine Reddick said she wrote it about her mother, who died at a Reno nursing home Aug. 30 at the age of 78.
Now a psychology consultant for a school district outside Austin, Texas, she said she decided to share the story of their painful physical and mental abuse after consulting with her brother, Patrick Reddick. They said they grew up with four siblings in a Carson City orphanage after they were removed from their mother’s home and had been estranged from her for more than 30 years.
"Everyone she met, adult or child was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity, and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit," the obit said. "Our greatest wish now is to stimulate a national movement that mandates a purposeful and dedicated war against child abuse in the United States of America."