As first hours of carnage unfolded at Nairobi mall, tales of survival emerged
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- It’s 1:30 on Saturday afternoon in the Westgate Mall. Rafia Khan is huddling in a crawl space of the Millionaires Casino with her cousin and eight other people as gunmen roam the building and shoot, again and again, into crowds of shoppers.
Now she is teaching those in hiding -- perfect strangers -- words that she hopes will keep them alive.
The group had found the ceiling-level space as they fled gunfire and explosions.
While they are hiding, word spreads by mobile phone text messages that Islamic militants have taken control of the shopping mall that houses the casino. Word also spreads that the gunmen are allowing Muslims to leave -- testing them by asking about their knowledge of Islam.
Khan and her cousin are the only Muslims among the small group. They decide to teach the others to recite the Shahada, the short Arabic-language creed that proclaims there is only one God and Muhammed is his prophet.
Gov’t shutdown in sight? House GOP nixes stopgap bill if it fails to ‘defund Obamacare’
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Moving closer to the brink of a government shutdown, House Republicans vowed Thursday they won’t simply accept the stopgap legislation that is likely to remain after Senate Democrats strip away a plan to dismantle President Barack Obama’s health care law.
The defiant posture sets the stage for weekend drama on Capitol Hill after the Senate sends the fractious House a straightforward bill to keep the government operating through Nov. 15 rather than partly closing down at midnight Monday. The Senate is likely to act Friday after Democrats use their procedural advantages to remove the House’s tea party-inspired provision to "defund Obamacare."
Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and several rank-and-file Republicans said the House simply won’t accept a "clean" spending measure, even though that’s been the norm in Congress on dozens of occasions since the 1995-96 government closures that bruised Republicans and strengthened the hand of Democratic President Bill Clinton.
"I don’t see that happening," Boehner said. Still, he declared that "I have no interest in a government shutdown" and he doesn’t expect one to occur on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the Democratic-led chamber will not relent.
Key powers agree on UN resolution on
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Britain’s U.N. ambassador says key powers have reached agreement on a resolution to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.
Mark Lyall Grant tweeted that the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, France, the U.S., Russia and China -- agreed on a "binding and enforceable draft ... resolution."
He says Britain will introduce the text to the 10 other members of the Security Council at a meeting Thursday night.
The U.S. and Russia had been at odds on how to enforce the resolution. Interpol issues alert for ‘white widow’ amid suspicions she took part in Nairobi attack
LONDON (AP) -- The tabloids call her "the white widow," a British-born Muslim convert who was married to one of the suicide bombers in the 2005 attack on London’s transit system. And for days now, the British media have been rife with speculation she took part in the terrorist takeover at a Nairobi shopping mall.
On Thursday, Interpol, acting at Kenya’s request, issued an arrest notice for 29-year-old fugitive Samantha Lewthwaite -- not in connection with the mall attack, but over a 2011 plot to bomb holiday resorts in Kenya.
If Lewthwaite indeed embraced the jihadi cause, it would mark a chilling turnaround for the apparently grieving widow who originally condemned the London transit bombings and criticized her late husband, Jermaine Lindsay, for taking part.
Officials have not made public any evidence linking her to the mall attack. The Interpol notice did not mention it. And al-Shabab, the Somali Islamic extremist group behind the takeover, denied any female fighters participated.
Nevertheless, the timing of the Interpol notice so soon after the attack fueled speculation she was involved in some way -- suspicions that were stoked earlier in the week by comments from Kenya’s foreign minister that a British woman had a role in the bloodbath.
EU’s Ashton: Iran talks ‘substantial,’ agree on new round of nuke negotiations next month
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton says talks between Iran, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany were "substantial" and have set the stage for a new round of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program next month.
Speaking after Thursday’s meeting at the United Nations, Ashton told reporters all parties had agreed to "go forward with an ambitious timeframe." She said senior negotiators would meet in Geneva on Oct. 15-16.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said here had been a "big improvement in the tone and spirit" from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
The meeting marked the highest-level direct contact between the United States and Iran in six years as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sat next to Zarif.
Intelligence chief sidesteps questions about tracking locations of cellphone calls
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation’s top intelligence official has sidestepped questions from a senator about whether the National Security Agency has tracked the whereabouts of millions of Americans using their cellphone signals.
The testy exchange Thursday between NSA chief Keith Alexander and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon intimated that such tracking had taken place.
Alexander says his agency can only collect such data with an individual court order. But he did not say whether the agency had ever collected information about locations from which cellphone calls are made.
Wyden is a longtime critic of NSA surveillance methods. Earlier this year, he questioned Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about whether U.S. intelligence gathered the records of millions of Americans. Clapper said no, but had to apologize later when leaks by a former NSA systems analyst revealed the bulk collection of U.S. telephone records and email data.
Health care online sign-up delayed for small firms and Spanish-speakers
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Days before the debut of new online insurance markets, a couple of last-minute technical glitches with President Barack Obama’s health care law are making supporters anxious and giving opponents a new line of attack.
The administration said Thursday that small business owners who want to use insurance markets designed especially for them will have to wait until sometime in November before they can finish their sign-ups. They still can start shopping right away on Oct. 1. And even with the delay, they can get coverage for their employees by Jan. 1, when the law takes full effect.
In a potentially more significant delay affecting the law’s larger insurance market for individuals, the administration quietly told Hispanic groups on Wednesday that the Spanish-language version of the healthcare.gov website will not be ready to handle online enrollments for a few weeks. An estimated 10 million Latinos are eligible for coverage, and 4 million of them speak Spanish primarily.
"It’s been at least two years since we’ve known that Latinos are a primary target for enrollment through the Affordable Care Act, so we would have hoped that the administration would have the rollout ready on Day 1," said Jennifer Ng’andu, health care policy director for the National Council of La Raza. That said, she added that her group won’t object if it takes a few more weeks to get things right.
Meanwhile, a politically powerful small business lobby that unsuccessfully sued to overturn "Obamacare" said the enrollment delay for employers strengthens the case for hitting pause on the entire law, one of the strategies now being pursued by congressional Republicans.
Police: Fatal stabbing near San Francisco ballpark sparked by Dodgers-Giants rivalry
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The rivalry between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers turned deadly when a fight after the division rivals played each other ended in a fatal stabbing, police said Thursday.
The altercation several blocks from the stadium Wednesday night was the second violent confrontation between the teams’ fans in the past several years to end in death or serious injury. A Northern California paramedic and Giants fan suffered a traumatic brain injury after two men dressed in Dodgers gear attacked him following the teams’ March 31, 2011, game in Los Angeles.
In Wednesday’s attack, Jonathan Denver, 24, was in Dodgers gear and with his father and brother, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said. They got into a spat about the Giants-Dodgers rivalry around 11:30 p.m. with another group of people leaving a nightclub, one of whom was wearing a Giants hat, Suhr said.
The fight initially ended with no one seriously hurt, but it picked up again a few minutes later, Suhr said. He said it wasn’t clear who started the second fight, but it ended with Denver’s stabbing.
"Obviously, this is one of the most storied rivalries in baseball. That said, and I’m a big Giants fan, there is no place at these games for violence," Suhr said. "Nobody’s life should be at stake whether they are at the game, leaving the game, whether it’s six blocks away and an hour and a half after the game."
’Breaking Bad’ ends its run on Sunday still looking good, with credit to the man at the camera
NEW YORK (AP) -- The supply is running low and you know there won’t be more. "Breaking Bad" stands to leave its fans reeling.
For five seasons of wickedness this AMC drama has set viewers face-to-face with the repellant but irresistible Walter White and the dark world he embraced as he spiraled into evil. With the end imminent (Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT), who can say what fate awaits this teacher-turned-drug-lord for the havoc he has wreaked on everyone around him.
This is more than the end of a TV series. It’s a cultural moment, arriving as the show has logged record ratings, bagged a best-drama Emmy and even scored this week’s cover of The New Yorker magazine.
Up through the penultimate episode, "Breaking Bad" has been as potent and pure as the "blue sky" crystal meth Walter cooked with such skill. Judging from that consistency in storytelling and in performances by such stars as Bryan Cranston (Walter White), Aaron Paul (his sidekick Jesse Pinkman), Anna Gunn (who just won an Emmy as Walt’s wife) and Betsy Brandt, the end will likely pack unforgiving potency.
But one thing is dead sure: It will be beautiful.
Bud Selig says he will retire as baseball commissioner in January 2015
NEW YORK (AP) -- Bud Selig said Thursday he plans to retire as baseball commissioner in January 2015 after a term of more than 22 years marked by robust growth in attendance and revenue along with a canceled World Series and a drug scandal.
The 79-year-old Selig said in 2003 that he would retire in 2006 but has repeatedly accepted new contracts.
Some owners -- even his wife -- have been skeptical in the past that he really would do it, but this marked the first time he issued a formal statement that he intends to step down from the sport’s top job.
"I look forward to continuing its extraordinary growth and addressing several significant issues during the remainder of my term," he said.
Selig said he will soon announce a transition plan that will include a reorganization of central baseball management.