Gunman in Navy Yard rampage told police he was hearing voices, being followed
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A month before he went on the rampage that left 13 dead, Washington Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis complained to police in Rhode Island that people were talking to him through the walls and ceilings of his hotel rooms and sending microwave vibrations into his body to deprive him of sleep.
The account, contained in an Aug. 7 report from Newport, R.I., police, adds to the picture that has emerged of an agitated and erratic figure whose behavior and mental state had repeatedly come to authorities’ attention but didn’t seem to affect his security clearance to do defense work.
Alexis, a 34-year-old information technology employee at a defense-related computer company, used a valid pass Monday to get into the Navy Yard and killed 12 people before he was slain by police in a shootout that lasted more than a half-hour.
A day after the assault, the motive was still a mystery. U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that investigators had found no manifesto or other writings suggesting a political or religious motivation.
Alexis, a former Navy reservist, had been undergoing mental health treatment from Veterans Affairs since August but was not stripped of his security clearance, according to the law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation was still going on.
Alexis, who had a history of violent outbursts, was at least twice accused of firing guns in anger and was in the early stages of treatment for serious mental problems, according to court records and U.S. law enforcement officials.
But Alexis apparently managed to exploit seams in the nation’s patchwork of complicated gun laws designed to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people. He was able to buy a shotgun in Virginia with out-of-state identification, even though that would have prevented him from buying a handgun.
It is illegal for gun dealers to sell handguns to such out-of-state buyers, but the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, passed by Congress in 1986, opened up interstate sales for shotguns and rifles. Virginia gun laws require only that an out-of-state buyer show valid identification, pass a background check and otherwise abide by state laws in order to buy a shotgun in the state. Alexis was never prosecuted for the two misdemeanors involving guns.
Alexis bought the shotgun at Sharpshooters Small Arms Range in Lorton, Va. on Sunday, according to a statement from the attorney for the gun range.
Michael Slocum said in an email that Alexis rented a rifle, bought bullets and used the range before buying the shotgun and 24 shells. Slocum said Alexis passed a federal background check.
Republican opposition to health care law flares in both houses of Congress
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Implacable Republican opposition to Obamacare has Congress once more veering closer to gridlock.
In the House, more than 60 conservatives support tacking a one-year delay in implementing the health care law onto a bill needed to prevent a partial government shutdown on Oct. 1.
Senior leaders warn the GOP could suffer significant political reverses if the party goes along with the plan and President Barack Obama and Democrats resist, as they have made clear they will, but it is strongly backed by senators with tea party ties and their influential allies outside Congress. Its leading advocate, Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia, said the proposal unifies the rank and file "around two objectives we have, keeping the government open and protecting our constituents from the harmful effects of Obamacare."
Across the Capitol, where energy legislation is under debate, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is proposing to add a one-year delay in the requirements for individuals to purchase coverage and for businesses to provide it to their employees. Obama has already ordered the postponement for businesses.
Additionally, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is threatening to hold up passage until the Senate agrees to vote on a proposal that would require lawmakers, their aides and presidential political appointees to obtain their coverage through exchanges that would be set up under the law beginning Oct. 1. They would also be required to pay the full cost of their insurance out of pocket, denying them the contribution that the government currently makes as their employer.
N.J. fire linked to electrical wiring, equipment compromised by Sandy floodwaters
TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) -- The massive fire that destroyed part of a Jersey shore boardwalk and dozens of businesses began accidentally in wiring damaged in Superstorm Sandy, and should prompt coastal property owners to get their own equipment inspected for similar danger, officials said Tuesday.
The boardwalk fire in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights started Thursday in aged wiring that had been compromised by salt water and sand during the Oct. 29 storm, federal and county investigators said at a news conference. The wind-whipped blaze destroyed more than 50 businesses in the two towns.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said the fire should be a cautionary tale.
"I’m sure on every boardwalk everywhere (at the Jersey shore), there may be compromised wiring," he said. "We don’t want to start a panic mode. We just want to be reasonable. If you’re a property owner and you think your electrical work came in contact with water and sand, we strongly recommend you have it inspected."
Seaside Heights Mayor William William Akers said there is no issue with potentially compromised wiring on the surviving sections of the boardwalk.
Russia opposes force in resolution on Syria; rebels demand response after UN report
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- Russia insisted Tuesday that a U.N. Security Council resolution governing Syria’s handling of its chemical weapons not allow the use of force, but it suggested that could change if Damascus reneges on the deal to give up its stockpile.
The main Syrian opposition coalition, meanwhile, urged the international community to take swift action against the regime of President Bashar Assad in response to a U.N. finding that the nerve agent sarin was used in a deadly attack near the capital last month.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country "spoke clearly" about rejecting the use of force when the chemical weapons agreement was worked out Saturday in Geneva between Washington and Moscow. The plan calls for an inventory of Syria’s chemical weapons within a week, with all components of the program out of the country or destroyed by mid-2014.
But if signs emerge that Syria is not fulfilling the agreement or there are reports of further chemical weapons use, "then the Security Council will examine the situation," Lavrov said, suggesting the issue could be reconsidered.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a resolution on the U.S.-Russia deal must be enforceable, telling reporters that the "most effective" way is under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. That deals with threats to international peace and security and has provisions for enforcement by military or non-military means, such as sanctions.
’Mad Men’ to conclude its run with 2-part final season in 2014 and 2015
NEW YORK (AP) -- AMC is keeping "Mad Men" around an extra year, expanding the final season of this acclaimed drama series to 14 episodes and portioning them equally in 2014 and 2015.
The network said Tuesday that seven episodes will air next spring and another seven in 2015. Previous "Mad Men" seasons have spanned 13 episodes.
Series creator Matthew Weiner said the two-part season will enable "a more elaborate story" to be told.
"Mad Men," which premiered in 2007, has won four Emmy awards for outstanding drama series. It heads into Sunday’s awards night with four major Emmy nominations, including best actor for Jon Hamm, who has never won.