Inability to browse health plans without first creating accounts adding to online woes
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A decision by the Obama administration to require that consumers create online accounts before they can browse health overhaul insurance plans appears to have led to many of the glitches that have frustrated customers, independent experts say.
Consumers trying to create their accounts multiplied the volume of online transactions that overwhelmed the website last week, causing long waits and exasperation. Many people were stopped by a balky security questions page.
The administration threw in additional computing hardware to handle the volume, and deployed software experts to patch the mechanism for creating accounts, but reports of delays persisted Tuesday.
For President Barack Obama, glitches involving his signature legislation are an unwelcome twist. A devoted smartphone user, his political campaigns were models of high-tech efficiency. Yet the problems that have surfaced so far with healthcare.gov don’t even involve the site’s more complicated functions.
Court leans toward lifting limits on overall giving by biggest campaign contributors
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court appeared ready Tuesday to free big individual donors to give more money to political candidates in the court’s first major campaign finance case since the justices took the lid off of independent spending in 2010.
The court’s conservative justices, who formed the majority in 2010’s Citizens United case, voiced varying degrees of skepticism about the limits on what individuals may give candidates, political parties and political action committees in a two-year federal election cycle.
The argument in a packed courtroom that included members of Congress gave supporters of stringent campaign finance regulations little reason for optimism that the court would sustain limits that were enacted 40 years ago in response to Watergate-era abuses. The caps were intended to reduce the potential for political corruption.
Chief Justice John Roberts, possibly the pivotal vote in the case, said that telling an individual he can give the legal maximum of $2,600 per election to only a handful of candidates for Congress "seems to me a very direct restriction" on First Amendment rights.
Roberts seemed less critical of the overall limits as they applied to the political parties, and he said nothing to suggest he would support an outcome that would call into question all contribution limits, including on what one contributor may give one candidate.
Egypt’s vital capital of Cairo now scarred by 2 1/2 years of turmoil, violence
CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt’s capital has long been proud of its nickname, "Mother of the World" -- a metropolis of 18 million throbbing with the vitality and fun of other great cities, even if at times it seemed unmanageable and chaotic.
But Cairo’s spirit has been deeply scarred by 32 months of turmoil and bloodshed from two "revolutions," constant protests and crackdowns, and a military coup.
Residents talk of an unfamiliar edginess. People are more suspicious of each other, whether because of increased crime or constant media warnings of conspiracies and terrorism.
Families are split by bitter ideological differences. Fights are sparked by a word or a gesture seen as supporting either the military or the Islamists who were ousted from power by the armed forces.
The mood goes beyond ideology. With police battered by the upheaval and rarely enforcing regulations, many people flout laws with no thought of the consequences -- whether it’s the cafes that take over sidewalks or thugs who seize plots of land.
Interrogators are supposed to play
good cop/bad cop,
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Aboard a Navy warship, U.S. investigators are likely playing good cop/bad cop, shouting and banging their hands on a table to get suspected al-Qaida operative Abu Anas al-Libi to give up key intelligence. That’s what they’re allowed to do, anyway. What interrogators shouldn’t be doing is putting a hood over al-Libi’s head, waterboarding him or depriving him of food.
The Obama administration would only say that al-Libi was being treated "humanely" as he is held on the USS San Antonio after he was captured in a raid in Libya over the weekend. A team of U.S. investigators from the military, intelligence agencies and the Justice Department has been sent to question him, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the ongoing operation.
"We know that al-Libi planned and helped execute plots that killed hundreds of people," Obama told a news conference Tuesday. "We have strong evidence of that, and he will be brought to justice."
While the U.S. once held people in secret prisons, questioned them over long periods of time, put duct tape over their eyes or forced them to strip naked, the Obama administration has swapped the secret "black sites" for battleships, acknowledged the capture and detention of a wanted terrorist and promised to stick to approved interrogation tactics like making sure the detainee has four hours of continuous sleep in a 24-hour period.
Al-Libi is being detained in military custody under the law of war, which means he can be captured and held indefinitely as an enemy combatant. He has long been sought for his role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa and has been under indictment since 2000.
2 win Nobel prize
in physics for unlocking mysteries
of the universe
STOCKHOLM (AP) -- Nearly 50 years after they came up with the theory, but little more than a year since the world’s biggest atom smasher delivered the proof, Britain’s Peter Higgs and Belgian colleague Francois Englert won the Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for helping to explain how matter formed after the Big Bang.
Working independently in the 1960s, they came up with a theory for how the fundamental building blocks of the universe clumped together, gained mass and formed everything we see around us today. The theory hinged on the existence of a subatomic particle that came to be called the Higgs boson -- or the "God particle."
In one of the biggest breakthroughs in physics in decades, scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced last year that they had finally found a Higgs boson using the $10 billion particle collider built in a 17-mile tunnel under the Swiss-French border.
Higgs said he hoped the prize would help people recognize "the value of blue-sky research."
Englert said the award pointed to the importance of scientific freedom and the need for scientists to be allowed to do fundamental research that doesn’t have immediate practical applications.
Mormons church has landmark year on homosexuality, leaving many with questions
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Wendy and Tom Montgomery went door-to-door in their California neighborhood in 2008 campaigning for the passage of an anti-gay marriage proposition. They were among thousands of faithful Mormons following the direction of a church that spent millions on the cause.
Then they learned last year that their 15-year-old son is gay -- a revelation that rocked their belief system.
Now, Wendy Montgomery is leading a growing movement among Mormons to push The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to teach that homosexuality isn’t a sin.
They are hopeful. The Utah-based church’s stance on homosexuality has softened considerably since it was one of the leading forces behind California’s Proposition 8. A new website launched this year encourages more compassion toward gays, implores them to stay in the faith and clarifies that church leaders no longer "necessarily advise" gays to marry people of the opposite sex in what used to be a widely practiced Mormon workaround for homosexuality. In May, church leaders backed the Boy Scouts’ policy allowing gays in the ranks. Some gay Mormons who left or were forced out of the church say they are now being welcomed back -- even though they remain in same-sex relationships.
It may seem like negligible progress to outsiders, but Mormon scholars say 2013 has been a landmark year for the religion on gay and lesbian issues.
NYPD identifies woman thought to be mother of ‘Baby Hope,’ whose body was stuffed in cooler
NEW YORK (AP) -- In a dramatic break in a cold case more than two decades old, investigators used DNA to identify the mother of a dead child known only as Baby Hope, police said Tuesday.
The New York Police Department received a tip from someone after a publicity push over the summer, police officials said. The tip led to the woman, whose name was being withheld amid a homicide investigation.
"A DNA match was made with the mother, and the mother is cooperating," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters on Tuesday.
Kelly declined to discuss the case further as investigators try to determine the circumstances of the 3- to 5-year-old girl’s death.
"Obviously, homicide is a distinct possibility here, so we’re going to go forward in that direction," Kelly said.
89-year-old man described as an experienced drug mule pleads guilty in Detroit
DETROIT (AP) -- An 89-year-old Indiana man who grows lilies pleaded guilty Tuesday in Detroit to serving as a drug mule to distribute more than 1,400 pounds of cocaine.
Leo Sharp of Michigan City, Ind., is one of the oldest criminal defendants in Detroit’s federal court. He was contrite and very talkative during his appearance, saying he had never before committed a crime and that he worked for drug dealers because he needed money.
"In six months I’ll be 90," Sharp said.
Sharp was 87 in 2011 when a Michigan state trooper pulled his pickup truck over on Interstate 94, west of Detroit. Anxious and upset about what the trooper would find, he declared, "Just kill me and let me leave this planet."
In court, Sharp wore a dark suit that had a lapel pin signifying his service in World War II. He playfully winked at drug agents in the second row who investigated the case. His hearing aids weren’t strong enough, so U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds invited Sharp to stand just a few feet away from her.