UN inspectors: ‘Convincing evidence’ that chemical weapons used in Syria attack

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- U.N. inspectors said Monday there is "clear and convincing evidence" that chemical weapons were used on a relatively large scale in an attack last month in Syria that killed hundreds of people.

The findings represent the first official confirmation by scientific experts that chemical weapons were used in Syria’s civil war, but the report left the key question of who launched the attack unanswered.

The rebels and their U.S. and Western supporters have said the regime of President Bashar Assad was behind the Aug. 21 attack, while the Syrian government and its closest ally, Russia, blame the rebels.

U.S., British and French diplomats said the findings of the U.N. inspectors supported their conclusion that Assad regime was to blame. Russia disagreed.

Secretary of State John Kerry briefed U.S. allies on a broad agreement reached over the weekend with Russia to end Syria’s chemical weapons program, pressing for broad support for the plan that averted U.S. military strikes. Kerry met in Paris with his counterparts from France, Britain, Turkey and Saudi Arabia before seeking a U.N. resolution that would detail how the international community can secure and destroy Syria’s stockpile and precursor chemicals.

Fear and anxiety on for families of 1,000 listed as missing on Colo. floods

LYONS, Colo.


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(AP) -- Gerald Guntle dials his sister’s home multiple times a day, desperate to find out if she survived the widespread flooding that shattered the Rocky Mountain foothill town of Lyons, but the phone just rings and rings.

"If there was no phone service, I wouldn’t expect to keep getting ringing. That’s what has me scared," said the Tucson, Ariz., man, whose sister is among hundreds of people listed as missing in a disaster that is already confirmed to have killed four people.

Officials hope the number of missing will drop rapidly as communications are restored and people are evacuated throughout the region, as it did in Larimer and Boulder counties, where some 487 people dropped off missing-persons list over the weekend.

But faced with a lack of information, friends and relatives are struggling to avoid thoughts of worst-case scenarios.

In Estes Park, a tourist haven that serves as a first stop for many people entering Rocky Mountain National Park, Tony Bielat was searching for information about an elderly man who lives alone in nearby Glen Haven, where cabins and boulders washed down a swollen river.

Fed facing many uncertainties amid expectations it will slow its economic stimulus

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve is being engulfed by the one thing it tries to prevent: uncertainty.

Will the Fed take its first step Wednesday toward reducing the extraordinary stimulus it’s given the U.S. economy?

Will its eventual pullback jolt the financial markets?

Who will fill several expected vacancies on the Fed’s policy board next year?

And, with Lawrence Summers’ withdrawal from consideration, who will lead the Fed once Ben Bernanke’s term expires in January, ending one of the most tumultuous chapters in the Fed’s 100-year history?

House bill would cut $4 billion a year from food stamps

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House is expected to consider a bill this week that would cut food stamps by around $4 billion annually and allow states to put broad new work requirements in place for recipients.

The legislation would end government waivers that have allowed able-bodied adults who don’t have dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely.

The vote comes after the House defeated a wide-ranging farm bill in June because many conservatives believed the cuts to the nearly $80 billion-a-year food stamp program weren’t high enough. That bill would have made around $2 billion a year in cuts.

One in seven Americans use food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The costs of the program have more than doubled in the past five years.

State, local officials face expensive struggle to repair, replace rundown bridges

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States has so many bridges in need of repair or replacement, and so little money to do the work, that state and local officials say they are engaged in a kind of transportation triage: They fix the most important and vulnerable spans first, nurse along others and, when there’s no hope, order a shutdown.

Many of today’s aging bridges carry more vehicles than they were originally expected to handle; truckloads that pass over are much heavier, too. Many also are years past their designed life expectancy.

They are expensive to fix and far more costly to replace -- sometimes billions of dollars for a single bridge.

Of special concern are bridges that are both "fracture critical" and "structurally deficient." A bridge is deemed fracture critical when there’s no backup to protect against collapse if a single key element fails. Structurally deficient means it is in need of rehabilitation or replacement because at least one major component has advanced deterioration or other problems that lead inspectors to deem its condition poor or worse.

An Associated Press analysis of 607,380 bridges in the most recent federal National Bridge Inventory showed that 65,605 were classified as structurally deficient and 20,808 as fracture critical. Of those, 7,795 had both red flags.

Syria deal shines light on suspected Israeli chemical weapons program

JERUSALEM (AP) -- The U.S.-Russian plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons is drawing attention to Israel’s own suspected chemical stockpile and could raise pressure on the Jewish state to come clean about its capabilities.

Israel signed the landmark international treaty banning the production or use of chemical weapons two decades ago, but it is among a handful of nations that have never ratified the deal. While foreign experts widely believe that Israel likely possesses a stockpile of chemical and biological weapons, Israeli officials refuse to confirm or deny the existence of any such arsenal.

They say the key issue right now is Syria, not Israel.

In a radio interview Monday, former Defense Minister Amir Peretz declined to discuss the country’s chemical weapons capabilities but said the international community’s attitude toward Israel is "different" from Syria.

"It’s clear to everyone that (Israel) is a democratic, responsible regime," he told Israel Radio. "I very much hope and am certain that the international community will not make this a central question and we will maintain the status quo."

Seeing potential ‘economic chaos,’ Obama warns GOP
on shutdown threat

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A potential federal shutdown looming, President Barack Obama on Monday warned congressional Republicans they could trigger national "economic chaos" if they demand a delay of his health care law as the price for supporting continued spending for federal operations.

House Republican leaders were to meet Tuesday in hopes of finding a formula that would avoid a shutdown on Oct. 1 without alienating party conservatives who insist on votes to undercut the Affordable Care Act. Even more daunting is a mid- to late-October deadline for raising the nation’s borrowing limit, which some Republicans also want to use as leverage against the Obama administration.

"Are some of these folks really so beholden to one extreme wing of their party that they’re willing to tank the entire economy just because they can’t get their way on this issue?" Obama said in a speech at the White House. "Are they really willing to hurt people just to score political points?"

The Republicans don’t see it that way.

House Speaker John Boehner, who opposes the threat of a shutdown, said, "It’s a shame that the president could not manage to rise above partisanship today." Obama, said Boehner, "should be working in a bipartisan way to address America’s spending problem, the way presidents of both parties have done before," and should delay implementation of the health care law.

N.C. police: Unarmed man shot 10 times in weekend encounter with Charlotte officer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Investigators say an unarmed man was shot 10 times by a Charlotte police officer.

Police said Monday that officer Randall Kerrick fired 12 times at 24-year-old Jonathan A. Ferrell early Saturday while responding to a breaking and entering call. Ten of the bullets hit the former Florida A&M University football player.

Officers say Ferrell had been in a car wreck and sought help at a nearby house. A woman called authorities when she didn’t recognize the man.

Kerrick has been charged with voluntary manslaughter. He is out on bond and expected in court Tuesday.

Ferrell’s mother says she forgives the officer accused of shooting her son and is praying for him, but also says he should have never been hired if he could act so recklessly.

U.S. condemns Sudanese president’s plan to go to UN

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The State Department says it has received a visa application from the president of Sudan to attend the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, but is condemning the trip because he has been accused of genocide and war crimes.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf on Monday confirmed that Omar al-Bashir’s visa application to travel to New York had been received.

Harf says that before presenting himself to the U.N. headquarters, Bashir should present himself to the International Criminal Court in The Netherlands to answer for crimes linked to the conflict in the western Darfur region of Sudan, where an estimated 300,000 people have died since 2003 in fighting between the government and rebels.

Among Neil Patrick Harris’ many jobs: Actor, Emmy host, leader of Magic Castle

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Neil Patrick Harris is magical, and not just because he can sing, dance, act and host the Tony and Emmy awards. He’s actually magical, like in the abracadabra way, and has been since he was a kid.

Long before he was "Doogie Howser, M.D.," Harris loved magic. Every trip to his grandparents’ house in Albuquerque meant a visit to the local magic shop, where he used his allowance to add a card or coin trick to his collection, mastering the new illusion on the ride home.

These days, the 40-year-old entertainer injects magic into most everything he does. He levitates an Emmy trophy in advertisements for Sunday’s big show, which he’s hosting for the second time. His "How I Met Your Mother" character, Barney, dabbles in magic. And Harris often does magic tricks on talk shows.

He also makes countless hours of his free time disappear as leader of the Academy of Magical Arts, which is headquartered at the famed Magic Castle on a hill overlooking Hollywood.

"If magicians and magic work well, it really amazes people at a core level, and that level stays with them for a long, long time," Harris said in a recent interview, sitting in one of the Magic Castle’s many theaters. "You can talk to almost anyone and ask them to recount when they saw a magic trick and they get that giddy expression... I like knowing that the end result is that reaction."