No longer ‘turn off all devices’ on planes; FAA changes safety rules for electronic gadgets
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Airline passengers won’t have to "turn off all electronic devices" anymore -- they’ll be able to read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music from gate to gate under new guidelines from the Federal Aviation Administration. But they still can’t talk on their cellphones through the flight.
Don’t expect the changes to happen immediately, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said Thursday at a news conference announcing new rules. How fast will vary by airline.
Delta and JetBlue said they would quickly submit plans to implement the new policy. Airlines will have to show the FAA that their airplanes meet the new guidelines and that they’ve updated their flight-crew training manuals, safety announcements and rules for stowing devices to reflect the new guidelines.
It sounded like good news to passengers heading out from Reagan National Airport on Thursday.
Ketan Patel, 24, said he’s happy that regulators have debunked the idea that the devices pose a safety problem. "If it isn’t a problem, it should be allowed," he said as he stepped into a security line, a smartphone in his hand.
Officials: Israelis strike shipment of Russian missiles at Syrian port
BEIRUT (AP) -- Israeli warplanes attacked a shipment of Russian missiles inside a Syrian government stronghold, officials said Thursday, a development that threatened to add another volatile layer to regional tensions from the Syrian civil war.
The revelation came as the government of President Bashar Assad met a key deadline in an ambitious plan to eliminate Syria’s entire chemical weapons stockpile by mid-2014 and avoid international military action.
The announcement by a global chemical weapons watchdog that the country has completed the destruction of equipment used to produce the deadly agents highlights Assad’s willingness to cooperate, and puts more pressure on the divided and outgunned rebels to attend a planned peace conference.
An Obama administration official confirmed the Israeli airstrike overnight, but provided no details. Another security official said the attack occurred late Wednesday in the Syrian port city of Latakia and that the target was Russian-made SA-125 missiles.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the attack. There was no immediate confirmation from Syria.
Why spy on allies? In geopolitics, just as on the playground, even best friends keep secrets
In geopolitics, just as on the playground, even best friends don’t tell each other everything. And everybody’s dying to know what the other guy knows.
Revelations that the U.S. has been monitoring the cellphone calls of up to 35 world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have brought into high relief the open-yet-often-unspoken secret that even close allies keep things from one another -- and work every angle to find out what’s being held back.
So it is that the Israelis recruited American naval analyst Jonathan Pollard to pass along U.S. secrets including satellite photos and data on Soviet weaponry in the 1980s. And the British were accused of spying on U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the lead-up to the Iraq War. And the French, Germans, Japanese, Israelis and South Koreans have been accused of engaging in economic espionage against the United States.
But now the technology revealed by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden has underscored the incredible new-millennium reach of the U.S. spy agency. And it is raising the question for some allies: Is this still OK?
National Intelligence Director James Clapper, for his part, testified this week that it is a "basic tenet" of the intelligence business to find out whether the public statements of world leaders jibe with what’s being said behind closed doors.
Delays, problems plague transition to satellite-based air traffic control system
WASHINGTON (AP) -- After a decade of work and billions of dollars spent, the modernization of the U.S. air traffic control system is in trouble. The ambitious and complex technology program dubbed NextGen has encountered unforeseen difficulties at almost every turn.
The program was promoted as a way to accommodate an anticipated surge in air travel, reduce fuel consumption and improve safety and efficiency. By shifting from radar-based navigation and radio communications -- technologies rooted in the first half of the 20th century -- to satellite-based navigation and digital communications, it would handle three times as many planes by 2025, the Federal Aviation Administration promised.
Planes would fly directly to their destinations using GPS technology instead of following indirect routes to stay within the range of ground stations. They would continually broadcast their exact positions, not only to air traffic controllers, but to other similarly equipped aircraft. For the first time, pilots would be able to see on cockpit displays where they were in relation to other planes. That would enable planes to safely fly closer together, and even shift some of the responsibility for maintaining a safe separation of planes from controllers to pilots.
But almost nothing has happened as FAA officials anticipated.
Increasing capacity is no longer as urgent as it once seemed. The 1 billion passengers a year the FAA predicted by 2014 has now been shoved back to 2027. Air traffic operations -- takeoffs, landings and other procedures -- are down 26 percent from their peak in 2000, although chronic congestion at some large airports can slow flights across the country.
No October jinx: Stocks kept on rising, hitting 7 all-time highs, despite government shutdown
NEW YORK (AP) -- October, with its history of big crashes on Wall Street, didn’t scare off investors this time. To the contrary, the stock market seemed unstoppable.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index closed at a record high seven times and ended the month up 4.5 percent. The market climbed even after October began with the 16-day government shutdown and the threat of a potentially calamitous U.S. default.
"The market didn’t waver in the face of the shutdown," said Anton Bayer, CEO of Up Capital Management, an investment adviser. "That was huge."
After being rattled by a series of down-to-the-wire budget battles in recent years, investors have become inured to the ways of Washington lawmakers. Instead of selling stocks, they kept their focus on what they say really matters: the Federal Reserve.
The central bank is buying $85 billion of bonds every month and keeping its benchmark short-term interest rate near zero to promote economic growth. The Fed stimulus has helped generate a stock market rally that has been going on since March 2009.
Appeals court blocks ruling on N.Y. police stop-frisk tactic, removes judge from case
NEW YORK (AP) -- A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked a judge’s ruling that found the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy was discriminatory and took the unusual step of removing her from the case, saying interviews she gave during the trial called her impartiality into question.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the rulings by U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin will be stayed pending the outcome of an appeal by the city.
The judge had ruled in August the city violated the Constitution in how it carried out its program of stopping and questioning people. The city appealed her findings and her remedial orders, including a decision to assign a monitor to help the police department change its policy and the training program associated with it.
During arguments, lawyers in the case said the police department hasn’t had to do anything except meet with a monitor since the judge’s decision. But the city said police officers are afraid to stop and frisk people now and the number of stop-and-frisks has dropped dramatically.
The three-judge appeals panel, which heard arguments on the requested stay on Tuesday, noted that the case might be affected in a major way by next week’s mayoral election.
Toronto mayor says he won’t resign after police say they have video of him smoking crack pipe
TORONTO (AP) -- Toronto police said Thursday they have obtained a video that appears to show Mayor Rob Ford smoking a crack pipe -- a video that Ford had claimed didn’t exist and has been at the core of a scandal that has embarrassed and gripped Canada for months.
Police Chief Bill Blair said the video, recovered after being deleted from a computer hard drive, did not provide grounds to press charges. Ford, a populist mayor who has repeatedly made headlines for his bizarre behavior, vowed not to resign.
Speaking outside his office door, Ford said with a smile: "I have no reason to resign." He said he couldn’t defend himself because the affair is part of a criminal investigation involving an associate, adding: "That’s all I can say right now." Toronto police conducted a huge surveillance operation into a friend and sometimes driver suspected of providing Ford with drugs.
The scandal has been the fodder of jokes on U.S. late night television and has cast Canada’s largest city and financial capital in an unflattering light.
Ford faced allegations in May that he had been caught on video puffing from a glass crack pipe. Two reporters with the Toronto Star said they saw the video, but it has not been released publicly. Ford maintained he does not smoke crack and that the video does not exist.
Seeking U.S. aid, Iraqi leader says fighting terror is a worldwide responsibility
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Terrorists "found a second chance" to thrive in Iraq, the nation’s prime minister said Thursday in asking for new U.S. aid to beat back a bloody insurgency that has been fueled by the neighboring Syrian civil war and the departure of American troops from Iraq two years ago.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told a packed auditorium at the U.S. Institute of Peace that he needs additional weapons, help with intelligence and other assistance, and claimed the world has a responsibility to help because terrorism is an international concern.
"If the situation in Iraq is not well treated, it will be disastrous for the whole world," said al-Maliki, whose comments were translated from Arabic. "Terrorism does not know a single religion, or confession, or a single border. They carry their rotten ideas everywhere. They carry bad ideas instead of flowers. Al-Qaida is a dirty wind that wants to spread worldwide."
The new request comes nearly two years after al-Maliki’s government refused to let U.S. forces remain in Iraq with legal immunity that the Obama administration insisted was necessary to protect troops. President Barack Obama had campaigned on ending the nearly nine-year war in Iraq and took the opportunity offered by the legal dispute to pull all troops out.
Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq between the 2003 invasion and the 2011 withdrawal. More than 100,000 Iraqi were killed in that time.
With civil war at their door, some Syrians drown out mortars with song, dance away their fears
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- As cannons thundered and mortar shells exploded nearby, the young Syrian woman in a slinky dark dress and stylish bob performed a song by pop star Adele, taking refuge behind a microphone from the civil war raging outside.
Performing with a guitarist at a cafe in the heart of the historic Old Town of Damascus, Reem Khunsar lost herself in the lyrics. About a failed love, they also struck a chord closer to home: "Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?"
While most people in the Syrian capital lock themselves fearfully in their homes at night, young Syrians dressed in tight jeans and designer clothes go wild at the handful of clubs still operating in a city once renowned for its nightlife.
"The war can’t stop life," declared Oday Al-Khayyatt, as he took in the music scene at the Roma cafe. "You hear bad news in Syria, dangers, war and death. But in our reality, we are still alive."
Such revelries show the human side of a conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people as the Syrian civil war grinds into its third year.