Nearly two years after deadly Benghazi attack, U.S. nabs Libyan militant, aiming for U.S. trial
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. special forces seized a "key leader" in the deadly Benghazi, Libya, attack and he is on his way to face trial in the U.S. for the fiery assault that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, the Obama administration announced Tuesday. It was the first breakthrough in the sudden overseas violence in 2012 that has become a long-festering political sore at home.
President Barack Obama said the capture on Sunday of Ahmed Abu Khattala sends a clear message to the world that "when Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible and we will bring them to justice."
"We will find you," Obama declared.
As recently as last August, though, Abu Khattala told The Associated Press that he was not in hiding nor had he been questioned by Libyan authorities about the attack at the diplomatic compound. He denied involvement and said that he had abandoned the militia. Administration officials said Tuesday that despite his media interviews, he "evaded capture" until the weekend when military special forces nabbed him.
Whatever the path to his capture, he was headed for the United States to face what Obama called "the full weight of the American justice system." Obama called the Libyan an "alleged key leader" of the attacks, and said he was being transported to the U.S., without saying exactly how or where.
Abu Khattala lived openly and freely in the restive eastern Libyan city -- seen at cafes and in public places -- even after the U.S. administration named him and another militant as suspects in the attack two years ago that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
"I am in my city, having a normal life and have no troubles," he told The Associated Press late last year after he was first accused. He denied the allegations and said he didn’t fear being abducted from Libya.
That changed Sunday when he was detained by U.S. forces, marking the first U.S. apprehension of an alleged perpetrator in the assault that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Abu Khattala is being held in an undisclosed location outside of Libya and will be tried in U.S. court, according to the Pentagon press secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby.
A man who identified himself as Abu Khattala’s brother, Abu Bakr, called the AP office in Cairo to ask if reports his brother had been detained were true.
Signs emerge of sectarian bloodshed in Iraq as 44 Sunni detainees killed
BAGHDAD (AP) -- Nearly four dozen Sunni detainees were gunned down at a jail north of Baghdad, a car bomb struck a Shiite neighborhood of the capital and four young Sunnis were found slain -- ominous signs that open warfare between the two main Muslim sects has returned to Iraq.
The killings late Monday and Tuesday following the capture by Sunni insurgents of a large swath of the country stretching to Syria were the first hints of the beginnings of a return to sectarian bloodletting that nearly tore the country apart in 2006 and 2007.
During the United States’ eight-year presence in Iraq, American forces acted as a buffer between the two Islamic sects, though with limited success. The U.S. military withdrew at the end of 2011, but it is now being pulled back in -- so far committing just under 300 troops, with a limited mission of securing U.S. assets as President Barack Obama nears a decision on an array of options for combating the Islamic militants.
In the latest sect-on-sect violence, at least 44 Sunni detainees were slaughtered by gun shots to the head and chest by pro-government Shiite militiamen after Sunni insurgents tried to storm the jail near Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, police said.
The Iraqi military gave a different account and put the death toll at 52, insisting the Sunni inmates were killed by mortar shells in the attack late Monday on the facility.
Iraq’s military reeling from humiliation by militants, commanders put under investigation
BAGHDAD (AP) -- The Iraqi soldiers tell of how they can hardly live with the shame of their rout under the onslaught of the Islamic militants. Their commanders disappeared. Pleas for more ammunition went unanswered. Troops ran from post to post only to find them already taken by gunmen, forcing them to flee.
"I see it in the eyes of my family, relatives and neighbors," one lieutenant-colonel who escaped the militants’ sweep over the northern city of Mosul told The Associated Press. "I am as broken and ashamed as a bride who is not a virgin on her wedding night."
Iraq’s military has been deeply shaken by their collapse in the face of fighters led by the al-Qaida breakaway group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, who in the course of just over a week overran Mosul then stormed toward Baghdad, seizing town after town, several cities and army base after army base over a large swath of territory.
The impact is hurting efforts to rally the armed forces to fight back. Shiite militiamen and volunteers have had to fill the void as the regular army struggles to regroup.
Top commanders have been put under investigation. Conspiracy theories are running rampant to explain the meltdown. Some Shiite allies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have accused Kurds in the north of encouraging the military collapse so they could grab territory and weapons for themselves -- an accusation that they’ve provided no proof for but that is straining already tense ties with the Kurdish autonomous zone, where officials deny the claim.
Doctors and patients clamor for breakthrough hepatitis drug as insurers and states gag on cost
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Your money or your life?
Sovaldi, a new pill for hepatitis C, cures the liver-wasting disease in 9 of 10 patients, but treatment can cost more than $90,000.
Leading medical societies recommend the drug as a first-line treatment, and patients are clamoring for it. But insurance companies and state Medicaid programs are gagging on the price. In Oregon, officials propose to limit how many low-income patients can get Sovaldi.
Yet if Sovaldi didn’t exist, insurers would still be paying in the mid-to-high five figures to treat the most common kind of hepatitis C, a new pricing survey indicates. Some of the older alternatives involve more side effects, and are less likely to provide cures.
So what’s a fair price?
Rare dual tornadoes slam tiny rural NE Nebraska town killing 2 people, flattening homes, farms
PILGER, Neb. (AP) -- As two giant tornadoes bore down on this tiny farming town in northeast Nebraska, Trey Wisniewski heard the storm sirens, glanced out at the blackening sky and rushed with his wife into their basement.
"My wife was holding our animals, and I was holding on to my wife. We could feel the suction try to pull us out of there," he said Tuesday.
Suddenly, their house was gone, leaving them to dodge debris that rained down upon them. And then, the storm that hit so suddenly Monday afternoon was gone, allowing them to emerge and see what was left of the 350-person farming town of Pilger.
They found that much of the community was gone and two people had died. The disaster, delivered by twin twisters rare in how forcefully they travelled side by side for an extended period, left some townsfolk doubting whether the town could rebuild, even as they marveled that the death toll hadn’t been worse.
"This is by far the worst thing I’ve ever seen as governor," said Gov. Dave Heineman, who flew over Pilger in a helicopter Tuesday morning and then walked through the town, trailed by reporters.
Experts discover the portrait of a mystery man beneath Picasso’s ‘The Blue Room’
WASHINGTON (AP) -- For Pablo Picasso, 1901 was a pivotal time to experiment and find his own unique style. At just 19 years old, he was living in Paris, painting furiously and dirt poor, so it wasn’t unusual for him to take one canvas and reuse it to paint a fresh idea.
Now scientists and art experts are revealing they’ve found a hidden painting beneath the surface of one of Picasso’s first masterpieces, "The Blue Room." Using advances in infrared imagery, they have uncovered a hidden portrait of a bow-tied man with his face resting on his hand.
Now the question that conservators at The Phillips Collection in Washington hope to answer is simply: Who is he?
It’s a mystery that’s fueling new research about the painting created early in Picasso’s career while he was working in Paris at the start of his distinctive blue period of melancholy subjects.
Curators and conservators revealed the discovery of the portrait for the first time to The Associated Press last week.
Obama to ban fishing, drilling in remote Pacific waters, creating largest ocean reserve
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vowing to protect fragile marine life, President Barack Obama acted Tuesday to create the world’s largest ocean preserve by expanding a national monument his predecessor established in waters thousands of miles from the American mainland.
The designation for a remote stretch of the Pacific Ocean marks a major symbolic victory for environmentalists, who have urged the president to take action on his own to protect the planet as Congress turns its focus elsewhere. But the initiative will have limited practical implications because little fishing or drilling are taking place even without the new protections.
Protecting the world’s oceans and the vibrant ecosystems that thrive deep under the surface is a task that’s bigger than any one country but the U.S. must take the lead, Obama said, announcing the initiative during an ocean conservation conference.
"Let’s make sure that years from now we can look our children in the eye and tell them that, yes, we did our part, we took action, and we led the way toward a safer, more stable world," Obama said in a video message.
Obama hasn’t settled on the final boundaries for the expanded Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and will solicit input from fishermen, scientists and conservation experts. Obama’s senior counselor, John Podesta, said that process would start immediately and wrap up "in the very near future."
White House opposes House’s $570 billion defense bill
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House is objecting to the House’s $570 billion defense spending bill, complaining about congressional restrictions on handling detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and obstacles to Pentagon cost-saving moves.
The Obama administration said Tuesday that the bill would hamper efforts to reduce unneeded expenses and match the military to the president’s defense strategy. The bill blocks another round of military base closings and spares some aircraft.
The House is expected to consider the bill on Wednesday and complete it by week’s end.
The bill would bar U.S. funds for the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo amid the congressional outcry over the swap of five Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
U.S., SunTrust announce nearly
$1 billion settlement
WASHINGTON (AP) -- SunTrust has agreed to pay nearly $1 billion to resolve allegations that it underwrote and provided faulty mortgage loans, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
The $968 million settlement, reached with the Justice Department and other government agencies, will include money for homeowner relief and a requirement that the company improve its handling of mortgage loans and foreclosures.
In announcing the agreement, authorities said SunTrust Mortgage, a Richmond, Virginia-based mortgage lender and subsidiary of SunTrust Banks Inc., originated and underwrote bad loans between 2006 and 2012, gave borrowers false and misleading information and charged unauthorized fees.
The company’s own internal documents showed an awareness of the problem, the government alleged, with one 2012 report referencing a "broken loan origination process."
"SunTrust’s conduct is a prime example of the widespread underwriting failures that helped bring about the financial crisis" of 2008, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
As part of the deal, SunTrust has agreed to provide $500 million to homeowners and borrowers who are at risk of default, $418 million to resolve allegations that it underwrote bad loans and a $50 million cash penalty. The settlement also involves the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and state attorneys general from across the country. A monitor will ensure compliance with the agreement, which was filed in federal court in Washington.
SunTrust chief executive William H. Rogers Jr. said in a statement that SunTrust was pleased to have resolved the allegations. He said the company has made improvements to its mortgage underwriting processes and internal controls.
SunTrust had announced the anticipated settlement in October.