Wednesday, October 7
OBAMA-DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS
NEW: Obama apologizes to aid group for US attack on Afghan clinic
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has apologized to Doctors Without Borders for the U.S. air attack that hit the group's medical clinic in Afghanistan.
Obama spoke to the group's international president, Joanne Liu, on Wednesday.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest says Obama offered his condolences to the aid group's staff. He says Obama assured her that there would be a thorough and objective accounting of the facts.
Earnest says Obama told the group that the U.S, if necessary, would make changes so such incidents are less likely to happen.
The White House says Obama also spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and pledged to keep working closely with his government.
The weekend attack in the northern city of Kunduz killed at least 22 people.
EAST COAST RAINSTORM
UPDATE: South Carolina governor says officials are keeping a close eye on dams
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says state wildlife officials have made at least 600 rescues during the flooding that has ravaged the state.
She says the central area of the state is recovering as the waters recede, but officials are keeping a close eye on the southeastern part of the state. Haley is taking a trip toward South Carolina's coast to assess flood damage there.
She says 62 dams across the state are being monitored and 13 have already failed.
She says she understands that questions are being raised about the state's infrastructure, but she says they are still in response and recovery mode. She says there will be time for analysis later.
Haley was joined by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate (FYOO'-gayt), who says the agency will be in the state "for a long time."
EAST COAST RAINSTORM-GRAHAM
NEW: Lindsey Graham says South Carolina flooding could 'break the bank'
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham says historic flooding in South Carolina could "break the bank" of federal emergency officials, forcing Congress to step in to appropriate possibly more than $1 billion to help with relief efforts.
The South Carolina lawmaker visited A.C. Flora High School this morning, where dozens of people sought shelter after the latest dam breach threatened their homes. Graham says he wanted to assess the damage personally and determine what role the federal government can play in cleanup efforts.
He says: "It's going to take weeks to really get a good assessment of the damage," adding the total could be hundreds of millions of dollars and "maybe over a billion."
But Graham warns state and county officials not to use the disaster as an opportunity to ask for money unrelated to flood damage. He criticized the federal government's aid package to the northeastern United States following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, calling it a "pork-laden monstrosity."
UPDATE: Coast Guard ending search for crew missing from sunken cargo ship
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Coast Guard has told family members it is ending its search for 33 missing crew members from a U.S. cargo ship that sank last week during Hurricane Joaquin.
The father of a missing crew member said the Coast Guard will end its search for survivors from the El Faro at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Robert Green, father of LaShawn Rivera, said the Coast Guard informed relatives Wednesday afternoon.
The 790-foot cargo ship sank Thursday off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin, a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds that was producing 50-foot waves. Officials say the ship's captain had plans to go around the storm as he headed from Jacksonville, Florida, to Puerto Rico but the El Faro suffered unexplained engine failure that left it unable to avoid the storm.
Three Coast Guard cutters, two C-130 aircraft, helicopters, three commercial tugboats and a U.S. Navy plane were searched across a 300-square-mile expanse of Atlantic Ocean near Crooked Island in the Bahamas. The searchers found a body in a survival suit, but were unable to retrieve it. They also found an empty life raft, empty survival suits, a life ring and other debris.
The water in the area is 15,000 feet deep.
OREGON SCHOOL SHOOTING
UPDATE: Oregon gunman killed self after police shot him
ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) — The latest on the deadly shooting at a community college in Oregon (all times local):
Authorities say the gunman who killed nine people at an Oregon community college killed himself inside a classroom after two plainclothes officers shot and wounded him.
Douglas County District Attorney Rick Wesenberg said at a news conference Wednesday that the two detectives who were the first on scene heard a volley of gunfire and ran toward the shots at Umpqua Community College last Thursday.
They spotted 26-year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer in the doorway of a building and he immediately fired at the officers, who weren't wearing bulletproof vests.
Wesenberg says they filed three rounds, one of which stuck the shooter in the right side. Once Harper-Mercer was wounded, he went back into the classroom and shot himself at the front of the room.
Eastern Kentucky University cancels classes, cites threat
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Eastern Kentucky University says it has canceled classes for the rest of the week because of an escalating threat after the discovery of graffiti that threatened to "kill all" this week.
The school said Wednesday that it increased police presence around the campus in Richmond, Kentucky.
Officials say classes were canceled midmorning Wednesday on the campus of about 16,000 students.
The school says there's no evidence of imminent danger but reported an escalating threat, originating from social media.
On Monday, campus police issued a public safety alert after a threat was found in a campus bathroom. The graffiti said: "Kill All By 10/8/15."
The action comes in the wake of a recent shooting at an Oregon college. The shooter killed nine people and himself.
UPDATE: Russian warships fire cruise missiles as Assad launches ground offensive in central Syria
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Russian warships in the Caspian Sea have been firing cruise missiles as Syrian government troops launch a ground offensive in central Syria.
It's the first major combined air-and-ground assault since Moscow began its military campaign in the country last week.
A Russian officer maintains that the missiles, launched from some 900 miles away, traveled over "unpopulated areas" to target militants.
Moscow has mainly targeted central and northwestern Syria, strategic regions that are the gateway to President Bashar Assad's strongholds in Damascus, and along the Mediterranean coast. But the strikes appear to have given Assad new confidence to try to retake some lost ground.
A Syrian official says the offensive is concentrated in Hama and Idlib provinces. Rebels have been advancing there in the past months, but the Islamic State group is not present in the areas where the fighting is taking place.
Britain's U.N. ambassador says Russia's military actions in Syria are strengthening the Islamic State by strengthening Assad and forcing much of Syria's Sunni population "into the arms" of the extremist group. Matthew Rycroft says anyone looking at a map of Russia's strikes can see that most "are against what we consider the moderate opposition to Assad, the very people that we need to be part of the future of Syria."
NEW: Pentagon: US warplane rerouted over Syria to avoid Russians
The Pentagon says at least one U.S. military aircraft changed its route over Syria recently to avoid coming dangerously close to Russian warplanes.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, says he could not provide details, including the number of times this has happened.
He says U.S. aircraft are still flying attack and other missions daily over Syria. But he acknowledges that the air operations have had to be adjusted since the Russians began flying.
Davis says this highlights the Pentagon's interest in talking further to Russian officials about ways to avoid accidents and potential unintended conflict in the sky over Syria.
One round of talks was held Oct. 1. No second session is scheduled.
NEW: Official: Iraqi Kurdish fighters exposed to mustard gas
BAGHDAD (AP) — A spokesman for the Iraqi Kurdish forces says a number of their fighters have tested positive for mustard gas after battles with the Islamic State group in northern Iraq.
Jabar Yawar tells The Associated Press that blood samples from the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters sent to a Baghdad lab revealed traces of the toxic gas.
He said Wednesday the exposure took place during the battles around the town of Makhmour.
He says forces from the U.S.-led coalition helping Iraqis also conducted blood and soil samples in the same area and that those also tested positive.
Yawar didn't say how many were exposed.
No one from the coalition was immediately available for comment.
A senior U.S. military officer said in August that preliminary tests showed traces of mustard gas on IS mortars.
TOYOTA-VEHICLES IN THE MIDDLE EAST
NEW: Why to extremists drive Toyotas?, US asks
NEW YORK (AP) — Toyota has spoken with U.S. officials about the prominent use of its vehicles by militants in Syria, Iraq and Libya.
Toyota trucks are conspicuous in extremist propaganda and are often what carry Islamic State group fighters to war, some with large caliber weapons affixed to truck beds.
The company says it prohibits sales to anyone who might modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities.
There are procedures in place to prevent vehicles from being diverted for unauthorized military use, but Toyota says it's impossible to control channels through which vehicles may be misappropriated or resold by third parties.
The Treasury Department's Terrorism and Financial Intelligence wing monitors monetary transfers and the flow of goods that could aid militants, but the department declined to comment on any ongoing inquiry Wednesday.
UPDATE: Israeli police say Palestinian stabs Israeli man
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police say a Palestinian attacker stabbed an Israeli man outside a mall in central Israel, the latest in a spree of stabbing attacks that have shaken the country.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri says civilians apprehended the attacker and police later detained him. Samri says the victim in the latest assault Wednesday was moderately hurt.
Israeli Channel 2 TV aired footage from the scene, showing the suspected attacker lying on the ground with his hands behind his back as an officer kneeled on his back.
It was the latest in a series of attacks against Israelis by Palestinians. Two stabbings took place in Jerusalem and in southern Israel earlier in the day.
UPDATE: EU to agree crack down on people refused asylum or residency
BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union countries are working on an agreement to crack down on migrants who have been refused entry into the bloc so they can be swiftly sent home.
A key issue will be to ensure there are tougher measures to put those who have to leave in pre-departure detention to make sure they don't disappear to live illegally in EU nations.
According to a draft statement seen by The Associated Press, EU interior ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg will sign off on an agreement that states, "all measures must be taken to ensure irregular migrants' effective return," including the use of detention "as a legitimate measure of last resort."
More than 500,000 people have arrived in Europe this year seeking sanctuary or jobs, sparking the EU's biggest refugee emergency in decades.
But of people who fail to obtain asylum or residency, less than 40 percent actually go back.
While the EU has common rules for asylum and returning people not permitted to stay, they have not been enforced consistently.
EUROPE-SAVING THE UNION
NEW: Germany and France try to turn tide of European skepticism
STRASBOURG, France (AP) — French President Francois Hollande has forcefully defended a stronger Europe and, in response to an insult from the far-right, said those who disagree should leave the EU.
Hollande appeared before the European Parliament with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday in a highly unusual bid to heal divisions within the bloc.
Marine Le Pen, the French lawmaker who heads a far-right group in the parliament seeking more sovereignty for member states, referred to Hollande as "Merkel's vice-chancellor, administrator of the province of France."
Hollande replied, "If (you) don't want a stronger Europe ... the only possible path is simply to leave Europe."
Lawmakers gave him a standing ovation.
UPDATE: An early rally in US stocks fades as oil prices retreat
NEW YORK (AP) — An early rally in stock prices was mostly gone by midday after the price of oil retreated.
KFC owner Yum Brands plunged 19 percent after the company cut its profit forecast for the year, citing weakness in its China operations. The company also owns Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 16 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,808 as of 11:45 a.m. Eastern time.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up a point at 1,981. The Nasdaq composite was little changed at 4,749.
The price of oil gave up an early gain after the Energy Department reported that inventories increased last week and that demand for crude fell.
U.S. crude was down 1 percent at $48 a barrel in New York.
IMF-GLOBAL FINANCIAL STABILITY
NEW: IMF: Up to $3 trillion in over-borrowing in emerging markets
LIMA, Peru (AP) — The International Monetary Fund says the biggest risks to the global economy are now in emerging markets, where private companies have racked up considerable debt amid a fifth straight year of slowing growth.
Top bank official Jose Vinals says the Fund estimates "that there is up to $3 trillion in over-borrowing in emerging markets."
Vinals presented the IMF's Global Financial Stability report on Wednesday at its annual meeting, being held in Peru.
He says an unprecedented lending spree has come to an end with the plunge in prices for oil, minerals and other commodities that economists attribute to China's slowdown.
The risk is that shocks from bankruptcies in the developing world's private sector could be amplified in global financial markets.
MIT ONLINE CREDIT
NEW: For 1st time, MIT's free online classes can carry credit
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — For the first time, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will offer course credit for its free online classes.
The university announced Wednesday that students will be able to take a semester of online courses and then earn a "MicroMaster's" degree in the school's supply chain management graduate program. Students who do well during the online semester can apply to finish the one-year program on campus.
Although the courses are free, the university says earning the MicroMaster's degree will carry a modest fee. MIT leaders called it a more affordable route to a degree.
Some other schools, including Arizona State University, have started offering free online courses with the option to pay later for course credit. MIT is among the first to follow in the upper tier of U.S. universities.
NEW: Study: Mammals thrive in Chernobyl exclusion zone
MOSCOW (AP) — Nearly 30 years after a nuclear reactor caught fire and spewed a lethal cloud of radiation, some species of mammals are thriving in the zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, a new study says.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, found that elk, deer, wild boar and wolves are abundant in the 2,160-square-kilometer (835-square-mile) Polesie reserve in Belarus, which was established after the 1986 disaster. More than 20,000 people once lived in what is now the reserve.
"We're not saying radiation is good for animals, but we are saying that human interference can be more harmful to certain animal populations than radiation," said Jim Smith, an environmental scientist at Britain's University of Portsmouth who led the study.