Stocks fall; Wall Street fears damage to economy if government shutdown continues
NEW YORK (AP) -- Wall Street to Washington: end the shutdown and move on.
The U.S. stock market ended lower Wednesday as traders, Europe’s central banker and Wall Street CEOs urged Congress to stop the two-day government shutdown that has closed national parks, put hundreds of thousands of federal employees on furlough and forced President Barack Obama to cancel an overseas trip.
Wall Street made it clear on that the longer the budget fight drags on, the more its bankers worry about significant damage to the economy and the possibility that Congress won’t allow the government to borrow more. The financial market sees that as a disastrous move that could send the U.S. into recession.
"I’m not going out there and beating my chest and saying the world is coming to an end here," said Brad McMillan, the Chief Investment Officer at Commonwealth Financial, an investment adviser. "But we face the possibility for significantly greater disruptions than the market is currently pricing in."
Republicans in the House of Representatives are insisting that Democrats negotiate over a new health care law as part of the budget talks. Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, insist that Republicans pass a straightforward temporary funding bill with no strings attached
Computer glitches put pressure on state, federal governments to fix insurance exchanges
The pressure is on for the federal government and states running their own health insurance exchanges to get the systems up and running after overloaded websites and jammed phone lines frustrated consumers for a second day as they tried to sign up for coverage using the new marketplaces.
In some ways, the delays that persisted Wednesday were good news for President Barack Obama and supporters of his signature domestic policy achievement because the holdups showed what appeared to be exceptionally high interest in the overhauled insurance system. But if the glitches aren’t fixed quickly, they could dampen enthusiasm for the law at the same time Republicans are using it as a rallying cry to keep most of the federal government closed.
"It was worse today than it was yesterday," Denise Rathman of Des Moines said after she tried for a second day to log onto the Iowa site.
Rathman has insurance through Dec. 31 but said she is eager to sign up for a policy because of her psoriatic arthritis, which has caused her to be denied insurance in the past.
David Berge, a pastor with two young children in Shoreview, Minn., tried unsuccessfully at least 10 times to create an online account on the state-run site MNsure. His high-deductible plan expires at the end of the year.
NSA chief says agency does not track U.S. social media, but did test tracking cellphones
WASHINGTON (AP) -- National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander revealed Wednesday that his spy agency once tested whether it could track Americans’ cellphone locations, in addition to its practice of sweeping broad information about calls made.
Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on proposed reforms to the NSA’s surveillance of phone and internet usage around the world, exposed in June by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden. But neither spy chief discussed proposed reforms; instead they were questioned about new potential abuses that have come to light since then.
Alexander denied a New York Times report published Saturday that said NSA searched social networks of Americans searching for foreign terror connections, and detailed 12 previously revealed cases of abuse by NSA employees who used the network for unsanctioned missions like spying on a spouse. He said all employees were caught and most were disciplined.
Alexander and Clapper also told lawmakers that the government shutdown that began Tuesday over a budget impasse is seriously damaging the intelligence community’s ability to guard against threats. They said they’re keeping counterterrorism staff at work as well as those providing intelligence to troops in Afghanistan, but that some 70 percent of the civilian workforce has been furloughed. Any details on the jobs held by the furloughed employees is classified.
Congress is mulling changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that some believe allows the NSA too much freedom in gathering U.S. data as part of spying on targets overseas.
Author Tom Clancy dies at 66; known
for his geopolitical thrillers
NEW YORK (AP) -- In 1985, a year after the Cold War thriller "The Hunt for Red October" came out, author Tom Clancy was invited to lunch at the Reagan White House, where he was questioned by Navy Secretary John Lehman.
Who, the secretary wanted to know, gave Clancy access to all that secret material?
Clancy, the best-selling novelist who died Tuesday in Baltimore at 66, insisted then, and after, that his information was strictly unclassified: books, interviews and papers that were easily obtained. Also, two submarine officers reviewed the final manuscript.
Government officials may have worried how Clancy knew that a Russian submarine spent only about 15 percent of its time at sea or how many SS-N-20 Seahawk missiles it carried.
But his extreme attention to technical detail and accuracy earned him respect inside the intelligence community and beyond and helped make Clancy the most widely read and influential military novelist of his time, one who seemed to capture a shift in the country’s mood away from the CIA misdeeds that were exposed in the 1970s to the heroic feats of Clancy’s most famous creation, CIA analyst Jack Ryan.
Berlusconi weakened, but not out, after retreating from push to topple Italy’s government
MILAN (AP) -- Silvio Berlusconi’s failed attempt to topple the Italian government has left him weaker than ever, zapped of the aura of invincibility that has surrounded him for two decades as he faces the possible loss of his Senate seat and a ban from politics.
Still, it is unlikely to be his last act.
The 77-year-old three-time former premier staged one of Italy’s most stunning political plot twists in memory on Wednesday when he took the Senate floor at the last minute to announce that he would, after all, support Premier Enrico Letta’s government in a confidence vote.
It was a face-saving measure that came after key loyalists in Berlusconi’s center-right party refused to follow his bid to collapse the coalition government as fallout over his tax-fraud conviction. The conviction carries a four-year prison sentence that endangers his role as a legislator.
‘’We have decided, not without internal strife, to vote in confidence" Berlusconi said.
From promise to reality: Gene sequencing solves one-fourth of mystery diseases in kids, adults
They were mystery diseases that had stumped doctors for years -- adults with strange symptoms and children with neurological problems, mental slowness or muscles too weak to let them stand. Now scientists say they were able to crack a quarter of these cases by decoding the patients’ genes.
Their study is the first large-scale effort to move gene sequencing out of the lab and into ordinary medical care, and it shows that high hopes for this technology are finally paying off.
"This is a direct benefit of the Human Genome Project," the big effort to decode our DNA, said Dr. Christine M. Eng of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "We’re now able to directly benefit patients through more accurate diagnosis."
She led the study, which was published online Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine. It gives results on the first 250 patients referred to Baylor for a newer type of sequencing -- just the DNA segments that hold the recipes for all the proteins the body needs. That’s only about 1 percent of the whole genome.
Baylor has sequenced more patients beyond those in the study -- 1,700 so far -- and found gene flaws in 1 out of 4, Eng said.
8 people killed in church bus crash in Tennessee; bus crossed median, hit tractor-trailer, SUV
DANDRIDGE, Tenn. (AP) -- A church bus blew a tire, veered across a highway median and hit a sport utility vehicle and tractor-trailer Wednesday in a fiery wreck that killed eight people, authorities said.
Fourteen other people were hurt in the crash in northeastern Tennessee, and all but two of them had been taken to hospitals, state Department of Safety and Homeland Security spokeswoman Dalya Qualls said in an email. The extent of their injuries was not immediately available.
The bus was carrying members of the Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, N.C., which is about 140 miles east of the crash site.
Dionne Stutts, wife of Front Street Baptist senior pastor Tim Stutts, said the bus was carrying a senior adult group who was on the way home from a trip to Gatlinburg.
She said her husband and another pastor from the church were en route to the wreck.
Verdict reached in negligence case against promoter of Michael Jackson’s comeback concerts
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A jury reached a verdict on Wednesday in a case claiming the promoter of Michael Jackson’s comeback concert was negligent in hiring the doctor who killed him.
The panel of six men and six women began deliberating on Sept. 26, more than five months after the start of the trial that offered an unprecedented look into the superstar’s private life.
Jackson’s mother sued concert promoter AEG Live LLC over the hiring of Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson an overdose of the anesthetic propofol in 2009.
Katherine Jackson claimed AEG Live should have done a thorough background check on Murray.
The company denied hiring Murray and said he had been picked by the singer as the doctor for his upcoming shows.
Mia Farrow: ‘Possible’ son with Woody Allen is Frank Sinatra’s instead
NEW YORK (AP) -- Mia Farrow says in an interview with Vanity Fair that it’s possible her son with Woody Allen is instead Frank Sinatra’s.
Farrow told the magazine that she and Sinatra "never really split up" and when asked if Ronan Farrow might actually be Sinatra’s son, she answered, "Possibly."
Ronan Farrow tweeted Wednesday: "Listen, we’re all (asterisk)possibly(asterisk) Frank Sinatra’s son."
A representative for Allen told The Associated Press, "The article is so fictitious and extravagantly absurd that he is not going to comment."
Mia Farrow was married to Sinatra for 18 months. Asked about the Sinatra family’s relationship with Ronan, the singer’s daughter, Nancy Sinatra Jr., told the magazine he "is a big part of us, and we are blessed to have him in our lives."