Friday March 15, 2013

TSA administrator tells Congress the plan to allow small knives on planes will be implemented

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The head of the Transportation Security Administration says the agency will allow passengers to carry small knives onto planes despite a backlash against the proposal.

TSA Administrator John Pistole told the a House committee on Thursday that he doesn’t believe small folding knives would enable a terrorist to take over a plane and that finding and eliminating them is time-consuming.

Pistole says that screeners find 2,000 small knives a day on passengers or in their carry-on bags, with each incident requiring two to three minutes to deal with.

Several lawmakers at the hearing say they don’t see much difference between the knives and the box cutters used by 9/11 terrorists.

As Senate panel debates fiscal plan, Obama meets for third day with lawmakers on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama said he had "a great conversation" with Senate Republicans on Thursday, the third stop in his ice-breaking tour of the Capitol this week on the budget and other contentious topics.

The 90-minute meeting with GOP rivals, senators said, featured exchanges on the budget, the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, tax reform and the regulatory burden on businesses.

"He was very candid. He certainly understands that you can’t fix the country without adjusting entitlements to fit the demographics of our country," said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., referring to benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare. "We’ll see where we go from here, but it was a great meeting."

Obama then walked across the Capitol to meet with his House Democratic allies, capping visits this week to the Democratic and GOP conferences of both House and Senate.

Thursday’s meetings came as a key Senate panel moved toward party-line approval of a fiscal blueprint that would only modestly trim the budget deficit while protecting safety net programs from slashing cuts proposed by Republicans.

On to 2016: Conservative Republicans hear hopefuls, looking hard for their
Mr. or Mrs. Right

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) -- America’s conservatives are searching for Mr. or Mrs. Right.

And there’s no shortage of hopefuls. Officeholders and other Republicans are jockeying to fill a leadership void this week as talk of the party’s future dominates hallway discussion at a conservative summit.

Activists gathered at the Conservative Political Action Conference say they want a leader brash enough to protect conservative orthodoxy and open-minded enough to help the Republican Party change its image: white, old, and male.

After a second straight presidential loss, the party is trying to find a way forward.

But there are divisions even among the activists at the conservative conference -- just as with Republicans across the nation. Some worry that the party may become too inclusive in the name of winning elections.

U.S.gov’t reverses itself, says thousands of illegal immigrants freed from
jails in budget cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) -- After weeks of denials, the Obama administration acknowledged Thursday that it had, in fact, released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants from immigration jails due to budget concerns during three weeks in February. Four of the most serious offenders have been put back in detention.

The administration had insisted that only a "few hundred" immigrants were released for budgetary reasons, challenging as inaccurate a March 1 report by The Associated Press that the agency had released more than 2,000 immigrants in February and planned to release more than 3,000 others this month. Intense criticism led to a temporary shutdown of the plan.

The director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, told a congressional panel Thursday that the agency had actually released 2,228 people from immigration jails over the course of three weeks, starting February 9, for what he described as "solely budgetary reasons." They included 10 people considered the highest level of offender.

After the administration had challenged the AP’s reporting, ICE said it didn’t know how many people had been released for budget reasons but would review its records.

Morton, who testified with two other agency officials, told lawmakers that the decision to release the immigrants was not discussed in advance with political appointees, including those in the White House and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. He said the pending automatic cuts known as sequestration was "driving in the background."

Former employer: Suspect in N.Y. shooting rampage was good worker, ‘spooky’ in recent encounter

HERKIMER, N.Y. (AP) -- Police SWAT teams navigated a cluttered, abandoned bar to find the suspect in four fatal shootings holed up in a small room, killing him in a shootout early Thursday with officers after a nearly 19-hour standoff that paralyzed an upstate New York village.

Why Kurt Myers, described as a loner, went on the shooting rampage the day before remained a mystery.

A man who worked for 20 years with Myers said that he was intelligent, quiet and a good worker who got along well with colleagues, but that he was "spooky" recently.

Steve Copperwheat, who hired Myers as a machine operator in the early 1980s at Waterbury Felt, a manufacturer of industrial textiles, said he encountered him in a Wal-Mart parking lot three months ago after not seeing him in about 10 years.

"I yelled over to him and he looked at me, said my name, said he was retired, and just went booking away," Copperwheat said. "It was almost like he didn’t want anybody to know where he was. He was trying to be very distant, which surprised me. The whole conversation was really spooky."

Lauer tells advertisers
he’ll get NBC’s ‘Today’ show back to the top

NEW YORK (AP) -- Matt Lauer told advertisers Thursday that he wants to get the "Today" show back to being the most watched and least talked about morning show on television, and that he expects to do it.

The beleaguered morning show host made his pitch at an unfortunately-timed NBC News sales event. "Today" is at low ebb in the ratings and a flurry of media reports has been speculating that Lauer is more of a sinker than a sail.

Lauer’s boss, NBC Universal News Group Chairman Pat Fili-Krushel, said about morning television that "we own it and maybe that’s why the press is so fascinated by us." She was grouping MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" and CNBC’s "Squawk Box" in with the "Today" show.

"When you factor in the quality of our audience ... we’re really in a league of our own," she said.

ABC’s "Good Morning America" has beaten "Today" in the ratings for 29 straight weeks, according to the Nielsen company. And the margin is growing: The last three weeks, which include Robin Roberts’ return to "GMA," have represented the ABC show’s best stretch since 1994.