Friday October 26, 2012

Panetta: U.S. military not sent into Benghazi during attack due to insufficient information

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. military did not quickly intervene during the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya last month because military leaders did not have adequate intelligence information and felt they should not put American forces at risk, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday.

In his most extensive comments to date on the unfolding controversy surrounding the attack in Benghazi, Panetta said U.S. forces were on heightened alert because of the anniversary of 9/11 and prepared to respond. But, he said, the attack happened over a few hours and was over before the U.S. had the chance to know what was really happening.

"(The) basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place," Panetta told Pentagon reporters. "And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation."

Panetta was referring to Gen. Carter Ham, the head of U.S. Africa Command, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In a letter to President Barack Obama Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner questioned if the White House considered military options during or immediately after the attack, and he questioned what the president knew about the security threats in the country. He said that the national debate over the incident shows that Americans are concerned and frustrated about the administration’s response to the attack.

Obama pressures Romney on backing of controversial Senate candidate; Romney ignores the issue

CINCINNATI (AP) -- President Barack Obama, seeking to shore up support among women, intensified his pressure Thursday on Mitt Romney to break any ties with a Republican Senate candidate who said that if a woman becomes pregnant from rape it is "something God intended." Romney ignored the emotional social issue, holding to an optimistic campaign tone as he fought for victory in crucial Ohio.

Obama, wrapping up a 40-hour battleground state blitz, also headed to his hometown of Chicago and cast his ballot 12 days before Election Day. The stopover was more than a photo opportunity -- it was a high-profile attempt to boost turnout in early voting, a centerpiece of Obama’s strategy.

The 2012 presidential contest was expected to cross the $2 billion fundraising mark Thursday, putting the election on track to be the costliest in history. It’s being fueled by a campaign finance system vastly altered by the proliferation of "super" political action committees that are bankrolling TV ads in closely contested states.

Back on the campaign trail, the president made repeated, though indirect, references to Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock’s controversial comment on rape and pregnancy.

"We’ve seen again this week, I don’t think any male politicians should be making health care decisions for women," Obama told a crowd of about 15,000 on an unseasonably warm fall day in Richmond, Va. The president’s aides pressed further, using a web video to highlight Romney’s endorsement of Mourdock and to accuse the GOP nominee of kowtowing to his party’s extreme elements.

New reports expected to show presidential election exceeds stunning $2 billion in fundraising

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The 2012 presidential contest is expected to cross the $2 billion fundraising mark Thursday.

Donations supporting the candidacies of President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have so far exceeded $1.5 billion through September. That figure doesn’t count more than $230 million flowing to independent "super" political committees working to get them elected.

Updated financial reports showing fundraising tallies are due to be filed by the end of the day. They’re likely to show how ordinary citizens and billionaires alike are fueling what’s expected to be the costliest campaign in history.

Wealthy Americans have contributed generously this election to super PACs. Those groups can raise unlimited sums of cash and have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on TV ads.

Syrian regime says it will honor four-day holiday truce, as rebels gain
ground in Aleppo

BEIRUT (AP) -- The embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad promised Thursday to observe a U.N.-proposed truce during a four-day Muslim holiday, while rebels claimed major gains in the key battleground of Aleppo.

But prospects of the cease-fire taking hold are dim, given Assad’s history of broken promises and the rebel momentum in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, where fighters said they advanced into several regime-held neighborhoods.

The truce plan by U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has been endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, including Assad allies Russia and China. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon urged all countries and groups with influence in Syria to pressure both sides to stop the violence in the civil war, his spokesman said.

The holiday cease-fire was the least a divided international community could agree on after the failure of a more ambitious plan for an open-ended truce and political transition talks by Brahimi’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, in April.

Even the current truce, to begin Friday with the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday, appears in jeopardy from the outset. Neither side has shown an interest in laying down arms, instead pushing for incremental military gains.

Government replaces X-ray body scanners at some airports with machines that safeguard privacy

CHICAGO (AP) -- The federal government is quietly removing full-body X-ray scanners from seven major airports and replacing them with a different type of machine that produces a cartoon-like outline instead of the naked images that have been compared to a virtual strip search.

The Transportation Security Administration says it is making the switch in technology to speed up lines at crowded airports, not to ease passenger privacy concerns. But civil liberties groups hope the change signals that the equipment will eventually go to the scrap heap.

"Hopefully this represents the beginning of a phase-out of the X-ray-type scanners, which are more privacy intrusive and continue to be surrounded by health questions," said Jay Stanley, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The machines will not be retired. They are being moved to smaller airports while Congress presses the TSA to put in place stronger privacy safeguards on all of its imaging equipment.

In the two years since they first appeared at the nation’s busiest airports, the "backscatter" model of scanner has been the focus of protests and lawsuits because it uses X-rays to peer beneath travelers’ clothing.

Feds arrest NYC police officer, accuse him of failed plot to kidnap, torture and cook women

NEW YORK (AP) -- A city police officer was charged Thursday with leading a ghoulish double life by using a law enforcement database and fetish chat rooms to dream up a plot to torture women and then cook and eat their body parts.

Gilberto Valle left a trail of emails, instant messages and computer files detailing the bizarre cannibalism scheme, according to a criminal complaint, which identified two women as Victim 1 and Victim 2.

He catalogued at least 100 women on his computer, federal investigators said, but there was no information that anyone was harmed.

One document found on his computer was titled "Abducting and Cooking (Victim 1): A Blueprint," according to the complaint. The file also had the woman’s birth date and other personal information and a list of "materials needed" -- a car, chloroform and rope.

"I was thinking of tying her body onto some kind of apparatus ... cook her over low heat, keep her alive as long as possible," Valle allegedly wrote in one exchange in July, the complaint says.

NBC’s Chris Hansen goes from child predators to would-be hit man

NEW YORK (AP) -- NBC News’ Chris Hansen has done his share of hidden camera work, most notably confronting would-be child predators. Even for him, meeting a man willing to carry out a hit was a chilling experience.

Hansen is shown negotiating with a hit man during a "Dateline NBC" special Friday exploring some of the strange and dangerous business being carried out online on sites like Craig’s List and others. He also meets a man looking to sell his marijuana delivery business, a woman advertising her willingness to sell her kidney and another woman seeking to buy a kidney.

Drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin are available online, he said, and many young people are becoming dependent and then turning to heroin as a cheaper alternative.

"It’s an eye-opening look at society because so much is going on on these web sites," he said.

"Dateline NBC" didn’t even get in to the issue of sex trafficking online. Hansen said there’s enough material to make Friday’s special, "Wild, Wild Web," a regular feature.

Apple misses Wall Street 4Q expectations on slowing growth in iPad sales ahead of Mini launch

NEW YORK (AP) -- Apple has a new iPhone, two new iPads and three new PCs as it heads into the holiday quarter, the biggest selling season of the year. But, paradoxically, it expects these new gadgets to bring down its profits compared to last year.

The reason: the new gadgets are expensive to make, according to Apple’s chief financial officer.

In part, this is a normal consequence of having so many new products, said CFO Peter Oppenheimer. When a production line is new it costs more to run and the components are more expensive.

"The difference this time is the sheer number of products we’re introducing at a short time," Oppenheimer told analysts on a call Thursday.

But Oppenheimer also singled out the iPad Mini, the new, smaller version of the iPad the country unveiled Tuesday. It starts at $329, well above the $199 competitors charge for similar products. Apple’s price is "aggressive," with a margin well below other products, Oppenheimer said.

A heartbreaking choice:
In 2 high-profile slayings, mothers help turn in their own sons

GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) -- Mindy Sigg sat sobbing on Thursday, listening to prosecutors tell a court that her 17-year-old son had confessed to the abduction and killing of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway.

While any mother would be devastated, there was an even more heartbreaking wrinkle for Sigg: She was the one who called police.

It was not the only high-profile case this week in which a mother made that painful choice. In New Jersey, Anita Saunders saw something on a Facebook page that led her to call police.

Her two sons, ages 15 and 17, are now charged with murdering 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale, a bike-lover who authorities said was lured to their home with the promise of new parts.

What does it feel like to turn in your child, knowing they could be sentenced to many years in prison? Surely, no one knows but those who’ve done it.