American missing nearly 7 years in Iran was working for CIA on unapproved intelligence mission
WASHINGTON (AP) -- An American who vanished nearly seven years ago in Iran was working for the CIA on an unapproved intelligence-gathering mission that, when it came to light inside the government, produced one of the most serious scandals in the recent history of the CIA -- but all in secret, an Associated Press investigation found.
The CIA paid Robert Levinson’s family $2.5 million to head off a revealing lawsuit. Three veteran analysts were forced out of the agency and seven others were disciplined.
The U.S. publicly has described Levinson as a private citizen.
"Robert Levinson went missing during a business trip to Kish Island, Iran," the White House said last month.
That was just a cover story. In an extraordinary breach of the most basic CIA rules, a team of analysts -- with no authority to run spy operations -- paid Levinson to gather intelligence from some of the world’s darkest corners. He vanished while investigating the Iranian regime for the U.S.government.
NKorea executes leader’s uncle, calls him a traitor and ‘worse than a dog’
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- North Korea on Friday announced the execution of Kim Jong Un’s uncle, calling the leader’s former mentor a traitor who tried to overthrow the state.
The announcement came only days after Pyongyang announced through state media that Jang Song Thaek -- long considered the country’s No. 2 power -- had been removed from all his posts because of allegations of corruption, drug use, gambling, womanizing and leading a "dissolute and depraved life."
The state news agency KCNA said a tribunal examined Jang’s crimes, including "attempting to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state."
The report called him "a traitor to the nation" and "worse than a dog."
Jang’s dizzying fall from grace, accompanied by allegations from corruption to womanizing and capped by his arrest at the party meeting Sunday, has suggested to some analysts that the younger Kim is still trying to consolidate the power he inherited from his father two years ago.
Several defense ministers and army chiefs have been replaced as the Workers’ Party has asserted control over the military after 17 years of military-first rule under his father, the late leader Kim Jong Il. But Jang’s ouster and execution is of a whole different order of importance, and it sends the strongest signal yet to anyone seeking to challenge Kim Jong Un.
Fake sign language interpreter at
Mandela memorial says he ‘saw angels’
JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- The sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial says he suffers from schizophrenia and hallucinated and saw angels while gesturing incoherently just 3 feet away from President Barack Obama and other world leaders, outraging deaf people worldwide who said his signs amounted to gibberish.
South African officials scrambled Thursday to explain how they came to hire the man and said they were investigating what vetting process, if any, he underwent for his security clearance.
"In the process, and in the speed of the event, a mistake happened," deputy Cabinet minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said.
She apologized to deaf people around the world who were offended by the incomprehensible signing.
However, she declined to say whether a government department, the presidency or the ruling African National Congress party was responsible for hiring the sign interpreter, telling reporters it isn’t the time to "point fingers and vilify each other and start shouting."
Coverage disparities emerging among states embracing, rejecting federal health law
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Residents in some parts of the U.S. are signing up for health care coverage at a significantly greater rate than others through the new online insurance marketplaces now operating in every state.
The discrepancy may trace back to the political leanings of their elected leaders.
Newly released federal figures show more people are picking private insurance plans or being routed to Medicaid programs in states with Democratic leaders who have fully embraced the federal health care law than in states where Republican elected officials have derisively rejected what they call "Obamacare."
On one side of the political divide are a dozen mostly Democratic leaning states, including California, Minnesota and New York. They have both expanded Medicaid for lower-income adults and started their own health insurance exchanges for people to shop for federally subsidized private insurance.
On the other side are two dozen conservative states, such as Texas, Florida and Missouri. They have both rejected the Medicaid expansion and refused any role in running an online insurance exchange, leaving that entirely to the federal government.
Yemeni officials: U.S. drone strike hits convoy heading to wedding party, killing 13
SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Missiles fired by a U.S. drone slammed into a convoy of vehicles traveling to a wedding party in central Yemen on Thursday, killing at least 13 people, Yemeni security officials said.
The officials said the attack took place in the city of Radda, the capital of Bayda province, and left charred bodies and burnt out cars on the road. The city, a stronghold of al-Qaida militants, witnessed deadly clashes early last year between armed tribesmen backed by the military and al-Qaida gunmen in an attempt to drive them out of the city.
There were no immediate details on who was killed in the strike, and there were conflicting reports about whether there were militants traveling with the wedding convoy.
A military official said initial information indicated the drone mistook the wedding party for an al-Qaida convoy. He said tribesmen known to the villagers were among the dead.
One of the three security officials, however, said al-Qaida militants were suspected to have been traveling with the wedding convoy.
Mysterious ‘white widow’ spins tangled web, eludes capture
AYLESBURY, England (AP) -- She is called the most wanted woman in the world, a suspected terrorist charged with plotting to blow up resort hotels in Kenya packed with Christmas tourists, a Westerner who wrote an ode praising Osama bin Laden, a jihadist who has eluded the law even as she has traveled through Africa with four young children in tow.
Samantha Lewthwaite’s saga is one of betrayal and revenge in a murky world where, somehow, a white woman born to a British soldier becomes a Muslim convert and then an international fugitive accused of conspiracy.
Her first husband blew himself up as part of Britain’s worst ever terrorist attack in 2005, an act she first condemned -- and her second partner adhered to the same militant brand of Islam and also apparently met an early death. Her notebooks, seized in 2011, are filled with lavish praise for extremists who slaughter civilians and hopes that her children will do the same.
And yet, since she disappeared some months after the London bombing, no one can say how the "white widow" became radicalized, moving from mainstream Islam to a "holy war" against the West -- or why she would embrace a movement that denies a woman’s right to education and other basic liberties.
"That is the mystery," said Niknam Hussain, a community organizer and former Aylesbury mayor. There was never a hint that Lewthwaite had chosen jihad during her years in Aylesbury, the small English city 40 miles northwest of London where she grew up.
Woman, child hurt in chairlift fall at New Hampshire ski area
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BENNINGTON, N.H. (AP) -- Emergency officials say a woman and child were hurt when they fell from a chairlift at a ski area in Bennington.
The fall happened Wednesday afternoon at Crotched Mountain ski area. Fire officials said they suffered serious injuries after falling about 40 feet.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office says it does not appear the chairlift malfunctioned. The lift was stopped for a while and inspected. It was later restarted.
Bennington Fire Chief Mike Roina says there were only a couple inches of snow on the ground at the area where the fall happened.
The names of the woman and child were not released.
Crotched Mountain General Manager Patrick Terry said the lifts are designed to prevent accidents such as this from happening.
"What’s important when you get on the chair lift is that you make sure you put the safety bar down," Terry said. "It’s nearly impossible to fall out of the chair."