Gunman kills TSA agent at LAX, injures 2; suspect in custody; flights affected nationwide
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A man carrying a bag with a hand-written note that said he "wanted to kill TSA" opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at a security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, killing a TSA officer and wounding at least three others, authorities said.
The gunman, wounded in a shootout with police, was taken into custody, authorities said. The Transportation Safety Administration officer was the first killed in the line of duty in the 12-year history of the agency, which was founded in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The attack sent terrified travelers running for cover and disrupted flights from coast to coast, authorities said.
A law enforcement official said the suspect, Paul Ciancia, 23, from Pennsville, N.J., was wearing fatigues and carrying a bag containing the hand-written note. The official was briefed at LAX on the investigation and requested anonymity because was he was not authorized to speak publicly.
A second law enforcement official confirmed the identity, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
Officials say U.S. drone strike on Friday killed leader of Pakistani Taliban
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- A U.S. drone strike Friday killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, in a major blow to the group that came after the government said it had started peace talks with the insurgents, according to intelligence officials and militant commanders.
Mehsud, who was on U.S. most-wanted terrorist lists with a $5 million bounty, is believed to have been behind a deadly suicide attack at a CIA base in Afghanistan, a failed car bombing in New York’s Times Square and other brazen assaults in Pakistan that killed thousands of civilians and security forces.
The ruthless, 34-year-old commander who was closely allied with al-Qaida was widely reported to have been killed in 2010 -- only to resurface later.
But a senior U.S. intelligence official said Friday the U.S. received positive confirmation that Mehsud had been killed. Two Pakistani intelligence officials also confirmed his death, as did two Taliban commanders who saw his mangled body after the strike. A third commander said the Taliban would likely choose Mehsud’s successor on Saturday.
"If true, the death of Hakimullah Mehsud will be a significant blow to the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), an organization that poses a serious threat to the Pakistani people and to Americans in Pakistan," said Michael Morell, a former acting CIA director who retired in August and has championed the drone program. His comments came in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.
Obama: al-Qaida now more active in Iraq, discusses ways U.S. can help stop threat
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama pledged Friday to help combat an increasingly active al-Qaida in Iraq but stopped short of announcing new commitments of assistance sought by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Al-Maliki came to the Oval Office requesting additional aid, including weapons and help with intelligence, to fight insurgent violence that has spiked in Iraq since American troops left in 2011.
"Unfortunately al-Qaida has still been active and has grown more active recently," Obama said at the end of a nearly two-hour meeting. "So we had a lot of discussion about how we can work together to push back against that terrorist organization that operates not only in Iraq, but also poses a threat to the entire region and to the United States."
Al-Maliki declined to discuss the details of his request for U.S. assistance but said the meeting was "very positive."
"We talked about the way of countering terrorism, and we had similar position and similar ideas," he said.
Kerry: Some NSA surveillance work reached ‘too far’ and will be stopped
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State John Kerry’s remark that some National Security Agency surveillance "reached too far" was the first time a high-ranking Obama administration official acknowledged that U.S. snooping abroad might be seen as overzealous.
After launching into a vigorous defense of surveillance as an effective counterterror tool, Kerry acknowledged to a video-conference on open government in London that "in some cases, I acknowledge to you, as has the president, that some of these actions have reached too far, and we are going to make sure that does not happen in the future."
"There is no question that the president and I and others in government have actually learned of some things that had been happening, in many ways, on an automatic pilot because the technology is there," Kerry said, responding to a question about transparency in governments.
Kerry was responding to questions from European allies about reports in the past two weeks that the National Security Agency had collected data on tens of millions of Europe-based phone calls and had monitored the cell phones of 35 world leaders, including that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The State Department said Friday his remarks were in sync with what President Barack Obama has already said on the controversial spying practices. But Obama has said the administration was conducting a review of surveillance practices and said that if the practices went too far they would be halted.
Reinstatement of Texas abortion law leaves few options for many poor pregnant women
HARLINGEN, Texas (AP) -- In a Texas abortion clinic, about a dozen women waited Friday to see the doctor, already aware that they would not be able to end their pregnancies there.
A day after a federal appeals court allowed most of the state’s new abortion restrictions to take effect during a legal challenge, about a third of Texas’ clinics were barred from performing the procedure.
Thursday’s ruling made Texas the fourth and largest state to enforce a provision requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital. In places such as the Rio Grande Valley and rural West Texas, the mandate put hundreds of miles between many women and abortion providers.
Anti-abortion groups welcomed the court’s surprise decision, which they insisted would protect women’s health. The ruling came just a few days after a lower federal court put the law on hold.
If women did not know about the ruling before they arrived at Reproductive Services of Harlingen, clinic administrator Angie Tristan told them. Abortions are a two-day process in Texas. On Fridays, women arrive here for their initial consultation with the doctor. On Saturdays, they return for the procedure.
Top cop is U.S. go-to man in Honduras for war on drugs, denies death squad charge
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) -- In a capital accustomed to daily bloodshed, the man in charge of law enforcement is as feared as the criminals. Few dare speak his name above a whisper.
Five-star Gen. Juan Carlos Bonilla was accused a decade ago of running death squads and today oversees a department suspected of beating, killing and "disappearing" its detainees. He is the top cop in the country that serves as a way station for most South American cocaine bound for the United States and beyond.
Bonilla is also the U.S.government’s go-to man in Honduras for the war on drug trafficking.
Though the State Department officially keeps the 49-year-old chief at arm’s length over his dubious past, Bonilla embraces the U.S.government as his "best ally and support." If the U.S. wants to fight drug trafficking in Honduras, it has to work with Bonilla.
"I am the director general, and I don’t delegate that responsibility to anyone," Bonilla said during his first interview with a reporter since 2011.
Now emboldened, conservative groups promise retribution for Republicans who stand in their way
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Virtually unknown outside Washington, a coalition of hard-line conservative groups is fighting to seize control of the Republican agenda.
Tea party allies like the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and Heritage Action for America showed their might by insisting that the GOP embrace the government shutdown that hurt the nation’s economy and the party’s reputation.
Now emboldened, these groups are warning that their aggressive agenda-pushing tactics aren’t over -- and they’re threatening retribution against Republicans who stand in their way.
"They refuse to learn," Chris Chocola, a former Indiana congressman who leads the Club for Growth, says of lawmakers who buck the will of right-leaning groups. His group is already seeking or supporting primary challengers for 10 congressional Republican incumbents seeking re-election next fall.
Mainstream GOP groups -- such as Karl Rove’s American Crossroads or the party’s formal campaign committees -- question their more conservative counterparts’ role, fed up by their outsized influence in shaping the party’s current agenda.
Hot dog-tossing mascot part of the team? Mo. court deciding if man injured by hot dog can sue
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- If it had been a foul ball or broken bat that struck John Coomer in the eye as he watched a Kansas City Royals game, the courts likely wouldn’t force the team to pay for his surgeries and suffering.
But because it was a hot dog thrown by the team mascot -- behind the back, no less -- he just may have a case.
The Missouri Supreme Court is weighing whether the "baseball rule" -- a legal standard that protects teams from being sued over fan injuries caused by events on the field, court or rink -- should also apply to injuries caused by mascots or the other personnel that teams employ to engage fans. Because the case could set a legal precedent, it could change how teams in other cities and sports approach interacting with fans at their games.
Coomer, of Overland Park, Kan., says he was injured at a September 2009 Royals game when the team’s lion mascot, Sluggerrr, threw a 4-ounce, foil-wrapped wiener into the stands that struck his eye. He had to have two surgeries -- one to repair a detached retina and the other to remove a cataract that developed and implant an artificial lens. Coomer’s vision is worse now than before he was hurt and he has paid roughly $4,800 in medical costs, said his attorney, Robert Tormohlen.
Coomer, 53, declined to discuss the case. His lawsuit seeks an award of "over $20,000" from the team, but the actual amount he is seeking is likely much greater. Tormohlen declined to discuss the actual amount.