National

10.1.14:  Airstrikes launched amid intelligence gaps

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Current and former U.S. officials say the Pentagon is grappling with significant intelligence gaps as it bombs Iraq and Syria. It’s also operating under less restrictive targeting rules than those President Barack Obama imposed on the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan and Yemen.

 

The U.S. military says its airstrikes have been discriminating and effective in disrupting an al-Qaida cell called the Khorasan Group and in halting the momentum of Islamic State militants. But independent analysts say the Islamic State group remains on the offensive in areas of Iraq and Syria, where it still controls large sections.

 

Human rights groups say coalition airstrikes have killed as many as two dozen civilians. U.S. officials say they can’t rule out civilian deaths but haven’t confirmed any.


9.30.14:  Toyota recalls 690,000 pickups to fix rear springs

 

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota says it is recalling 690,000 Tacoma pickup trucks because the rear leaf springs could break, puncture the gas tank and cause a fire.

 

The recall covers Tacoma Four-by-Four and Pre-Runner pickups from the 2005 through 2011 model years.

 

The automaker says the leaf springs can fracture due to stress and corrosion. They can move out of position and come into contact with surrounding components, including the gas tank. Toyota says it’s not aware of any fires, crashes or injuries from the problem.

 

Owners will be notified by mail and Toyota says dealers will fix the problem at no cost.

 

Owners with questions can call Toyota at (800) 331-4331.


9.30.14:  US home prices rise at slowest pace in 20 months

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices in July increased at the slowest pace in 20 months, reflecting sluggish sales and a greater supply of houses for sale.

 

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 6.7 percent in July from 12 months earlier. That’s down from an 8.1 percent gain in June and the smallest increase since November 2012.

 

Nineteen of the 20 cities in the index reported lower annual gains than in June. And a new national index of home prices compiled by S&P rose just 5.6 percent.

 

Lower price gains should make homes more affordable for would-be buyers. Sales of existing homes picked up over the summer but then dipped in August. Sales have fallen 5.3 percent in the past year.


9.29.14:  FAA: 2 weeks to reopen Chicago-area control center

 

CHICAGO (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration says it will take about two weeks to fully reopen a Chicago-area control center where an act of sabotage brought the city’s two international airports to a halt last week.

 

The FAA said Sunday it hopes to return the facility to full service by Oct. 13.

 

Authorities say a contract employee started a fire Friday at regional control center in suburban Aurora and then attempted to commit suicide. More than 2,000 flights were canceled that day at O’Hare and Midway international airports, disrupting travel nationwide.

 

About 600 flights were canceled at the airports Sunday, and delays were about a half-hour.

 

The FAA said crews are working to install replacement equipment. Air traffic controllers from Aurora are now at other FAA offices in the Midwest.


9.25.14:  9/11 illness kills 3 retired firefighters in 1 day

 

NEW YORK (AP) — The Fire Department of New York says three retired firefighters who worked at ground zero have died on the same day from 9/11-related illnesses.

 

Lt. Howard Bischoff and firefighters Robert Leaver and Daniel Heglund died Monday.

 

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro says their deaths are “a painful reminder that 13 years later we continue to pay a terrible price for the department’s heroic efforts.”

 

The three worked at ground zero after the World Trade Center attacks. One had leukemia, one had esophageal cancer and a third had colon cancer.

 

The Uniformed Fire Officers Association planned a news conference Thursday.

 

It says first responders showed health problems soon after the attacks, with 99 percent of exposed firefighters reporting at least one new respiratory illness.

 

The FDNY lost 343 firefighters on 9/11.


9.24.14:  Students continue prayer tradition around school flagpoles

 

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Organizers of today’s “See You At The Pole” events say the students gathered around their school flagpoles aren’t protesting. They’re praying.

 

National coordinator Doug Clark says the annual event, now in its third decade, is an opportunity for Christian students to connect at the beginning of the school year and pray for their classmates, their schools and the nation. Some students bring guitars to lead hymns as well.

 

Clark says the gatherings are constitutionally permissible at public schools because they’re student-led and take place outside of class time, usually before school starts. He says the prayer circles on thousands of campuses nationwide attract more than one million students each year on the fourth Wednesday in September.

 

Christian musicians promoting this year’s “See You At The Pole” include Casting Crowns lead singer Mark Hall, who is a youth pastor at his church in Georgia.


9.24.14:  US strikes militant staging area in Syria

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Pentagon spokesman says the United States executed two airstrikes Wednesday on an Islamic State group staging area in eastern Syria.

 

Rear Adm. John Kirby says the target of the strikes was an area used by the militants to move equipment across the border into Iraq.

 

Earlier Wednesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported airstrikes in and around the eastern Syrian city of Boukamal.

 

Kirby told CNN that the U.S. also struck Islamic State targets in Iraq, near the Kurdish city of Irbil and the capital, Baghdad.


9.23.14:  Government hackers try to crack HealthCare.gov

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government’s own watchdogs say they tried to hack into HealthCare.gov earlier this year and found what they termed a critical vulnerability.

 

But they also came away with respect for some of the security features on the Obama administration’s health insurance website.

 

The report is being released Tuesday by the inspector general’s office of the Health and Human Services Department.

 

It amounts to a mixed review for the federal site that serves as the portal to taxpayer-subsidized health plans for millions of Americans.

 

So-called white-hat hackers from the inspector general’s office say they found a critical vulnerability during their security scans.

 

But the office said that when its experts attempted to mimic what a malicious hacker might try to do next, they were blocked by the system’s defenses.


 

9.23.14:  Officials say alleged WH fence jumper had other incidents

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Officials say two months before a former soldier allegedly hopped a White House fence and got through the White House door, he was arrested in rural Virginia.

 

Officials say Omar Gonzalez was heavily armed in July and was carrying a map of Washington, with a circle drawn around the White House.

 

In a court appearance Monday, the prosecutor says Gonzalez also was stopped while walking by the White House in August, and was carrying a hatchet.

 

And authorities say on Friday, Gonzalez was carrying a knife while 800 rounds of ammunition, a machete and two hatchets were in his car.


9.22.14:  GM/Chrysler recalls

 

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors is recalling 221,558 Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala sedans because the brake pads can stay partially engaged even when they’re not needed, increasing the risk of a fire.

 

The recall involves Cadillacs from the 2013-2015 model years and Impalas from the 2014 and 2015 model years. There are 205,309 vehicles affected in the U.S.; the rest of the vehicles are in Canada and elsewhere.

 

GM says the electronic parking brake arm that applies pressure to the back of the brake pads may not fully retract after use. If the brake pads stay partially engaged with the rotor, excessive brake heat may result in a fire.

 

GM says it knows of no accidents or injuries related to the defect.

 

GM will notify owners and repair the vehicles for free.

 

Meanwhile, Chrysler is recalling nearly 189,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos in the U.S. to fix a fuel pump problem that can cause the SUVs to stall.

 

The recall covers some 2011 models with 3.6-liter V6 or 5.7-liter V8 engines. Chrysler says a relay can fail, increasing the risk of a crash.

 

Chrysler traced the problem to a spring that can deform because of heat.

 

The vehicles also might not start, and the fuel pump could keep working even when the engine is shut off. The company says that as of August 25th it’s not aware of any crashes or injuries from the problem.

 

Dealers will replace the fuel pump relay for free starting October 24th.