Trajectory of sarin rockets key to linking Syrian military to deadly chemical attack
BEIRUT (AP) -- The trajectory of the rockets that delivered the nerve agent sarin in last month’s deadly attack is among the key evidence linking elite Syrian troops based in the mountains overlooking Damascus to the strike that killed hundreds of people, diplomats and human rights officials said Wednesday.
A U.N. report released Monday confirmed that chemical weapons were used in the Aug. 21 attack but did not ascribe blame.
The United States, Britain and France cited evidence in the report to declare Assad’s government responsible. Russia called the report "one-sided" and says it has "serious reason to suggest that this was a provocation" by the rebels fighting the Assad regime in Syria’s civil war.
The report, however, provided data that suggested the chemical-loaded rockets that hit two Damascus suburbs were fired from the northwest, indicating they came from nearby mountains where the Syrian military is known to have major bases.
Stock market sets all-time high after Fed decides to continue economic stimulus
NEW YORK (AP) -- The stock market hit a record high Wednesday as investors cheered the Federal Reserve’s surprise decision to keep its economic stimulus program in place.
Stocks traded slightly lower throughout the morning, but took off immediately after the Fed’s decision in the early afternoon. Bond yields fell sharply -- their biggest move in nearly two years. The price of gold had its biggest one-day jump in four years as traders anticipated that the Fed’s decision might cause inflation.
Fed policymakers decided to maintain the central bank’s $85 billion in monthly bond buying, a program that had been in place in one form or another since late 2008. The program is designed to keep interest rates low to spur economic growth and has been a driver of the four-and-a-half-year bull run in stocks.
While the U.S. economy appeared to be improving, the bank’s policymakers "decided to await more evidence that progress will be sustained" before deciding to slow the bond purchases. The bank also cut its full-year economic outlook for this year and next.
Stock traders shrugged off the Fed’s dimmer outlook and focused on the prospect of continued stimulus.
Mexico floods kill 80, leaving thousands cut off in Acapulco
ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) -- The death toll from days of flooding in southern and central Mexico rose to 80 on Wednesday, and new reports of landslides in a village near the resort of Acapulco threatened to drive the number of casualties even higher.
Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said federal authorities had reached the village, known as La Pintada, by helicopter and had airlifted out 35 residents, four of whom were seriously injured in the slide, but they had not yet seen any bodies.
"It doesn’t look good, based on the photos we have in our possession," Osorio Chong said, while noting that "up to this point, we do not have any (confirmed) as dead in the landslide." Earlier, speaking to local media, Osorio Chong said "this is a very powerful landslide, very big ... You can see that it hit a lot of houses."
Mexico was hit by the one-two punch of twin storms over the weekend, and the storm that soaked Acapulco on Sunday, Manuel, re-formed into a tropical storm Wednesday, threatening to bring more flooding to the country’s northern coast.
Navy Yard, Fort
Hood attacks shatter sense of security at U.S. bases
Armed guards stand at the gates. IDs are needed to pass through electronic barriers. And uniformed members of the American military -- well-trained and battle-tested -- are everywhere, smartly saluting as they come and go.
And yet, twice in less than four years, a person with permission to be there passed through the layers of protection at a U.S. base and opened fire, destroying the sense of security at the installations that embody the most powerful military in the world.
"It is earth-shattering. When military bases are no longer safe, where is safe if that even doesn’t exist anymore?" said Col. Kathy Platoni, a reservist who keeps a gun under her desk after witnessing the shooting at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009.
In the wake of this week’s deadly rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Pentagon to review security at all U.S. defense installations worldwide and examine the granting of security clearances that allow access to them.
"We will find those gaps and we will fix those gaps," Hagel vowed on Wednesday.
GOP House leaders: Avoid shutdown, national default -- but also defund Obamacare
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans vowed Wednesday to pass legislation that would prevent a partial government shutdown and avoid a historic national default while simultaneously canceling out President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, inaugurating a new round of political brinkmanship as critical deadlines approach.
Obama swiftly condemned the effort as attempted political extortion, and the Republican-friendly Chamber of Commerce pointedly called on lawmakers to pass urgent spending and borrowing legislation -- unencumbered by debate over "Obamacare."
The two-step strategy announced by House Speaker John Boehner marked a concession to his confrontational rank and file. At the same time, it represented a challenge to conservatives inside the Senate and out who have spent the summer seeking the votes needed to pull the president’s cherished health care law out by its roots. They now will be called on to deliver.
"The fight over here has been won. The House has voted 40 times to defund, change Obamacare, to repeal it. It’s time for the Senate to have this fight," said Boehner, an Ohio Republican.
As outlined by several officials, Boehner and the leadership intend to set a House vote for Friday on legislation to fund the government through Dec. 15 at existing levels while permanently defunding the health care law.
Virus or bacteria? Test aims to help docs tell, reducing unneeded antibiotic use
WASHINGTON (AP) -- It happens too often: A doctor isn’t sure what’s causing someone’s feverish illness but prescribes antibiotics just in case, drugs that don’t work if a virus is the real culprit.
Now Duke University researchers are developing a blood test to more easily tell when a respiratory illness is due to a virus and not a bacterial infection, hoping to cut the dangerous overuse of antibiotics and speed the right diagnosis.
It works by taking a fingerprint of your immune system -- how its genes are revving up to fight the bug. That’s very different from how infections are diagnosed today. And if the experimental test pans out, it also promises to help doctors track brand-new threats, like the next flu pandemic or that mysterious MERS virus that has erupted in the Middle East.
That viral "signature could be quite powerful, and may be a game-changer," said Dr. Geoffrey Ginsburg, Duke’s genomic medicine chief. He leads the team that on Wednesday reported that a study involving 102 people provided early evidence that the test can work.
Today, when symptoms alone aren’t enough for diagnosis, a doctor’s suspicion guides what tests are performed -- tests that work by hunting for evidence of a specific pathogen. Fever and cough? If it’s flu season, you might be tested for the flu virus. An awful sore throat? Chances are you’ll get checked for strep bacteria. A negative test can leave the doctor wondering what germ to check for next, or whether to make a best guess.
’Stop, stop!’ 6 killed as Canada bus crashes through barrier, into passenger train
OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) -- Passengers screamed "Stop! Stop!" seconds before their bus crashed through a crossing barrier and into a commuter train during morning rush hour in Canada’s capital on Wednesday, killing six people and injuring 34.
"He smoked the train," witness Mark Cogan said of the bus driver, who was among those killed. "He went through the guard rail and just hammered the train, and then it was just mayhem."
It was not immediately clear what caused the bus to smash through the lowered barrier at a crossing in suburban Ottawa.
The front of the double-decker bus was ripped away by the impact, and the train’s locomotive and one passenger car derailed, though there were no reports of major injuries to train passengers or crew.
Officials in Ottawa initially said 10 of the injured were in critical condition, but by late afternoon, Anthony Di Monte, chief of the Ottawa Paramedic Service, said that number had been lowered, though he could not give a precise figure.
Ohio man who made confessional DUI video after fatal crash pleads guilty to vehicular homicide
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Confronted at a hospital by police who said he’d just killed a man, drunk driver Matthew Cordle was angry and in denial.
"He became very irate, and began yelling, he didn’t kill anyone, he didn’t do it, and he wasn’t going to give them any blood sample," Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said Wednesday.
Sober and in recovery, Cordle had a change of heart. He decided to plead guilty as quickly as possible, and made an online video confessing to the crime. He didn’t waver from the position he took in the Sept. 3 video, and on Wednesday he made good on his pledge and pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide.
"I drank so much I was blacked out," Cordle told Franklin County Judge David Fais near the end of a 38-minute hearing.
"So I would say this was a binge drinking situation, correct, Mr. Cordle?" Fais asked.
Submerged cars found in Oklahoma may solve mysteries that have haunted small town for decades
SAYRE, Okla. (AP) -- When three teenagers from this small Oklahoma town disappeared on their way to a high school football game in 1970, rumors swirled as to what happened to the trio.
Some thought the three had stumbled across a drug deal at a rural airstrip and been killed. Others said they might have run away to California.
"There have been theories from everybody," said Dayva Spitzer, publisher of The Sayre Record newspaper and a longtime resident. "Everyone suspected foul play. ... But every lead just went nowhere."
Now authorities believe they have a key piece to the puzzle: A 1969 Camaro, just like the one the teens were driving, was pulled from a lake with the skeletal remains of three people inside.
And that wasn’t the only discovery. A second car containing remains, an early 1950s Chevrolet, was also recovered from Foss Lake. Custer County Sheriff Bruce Peoples believes it may solve another case in which two men and a woman disappeared a year before the teens vanished.