Almost all boardwalk businesses destroyed by fire in NJ town still recovering from Sandy
SEASIDE PARK, N.J. (AP) — A massive fire spitting fist-sized embers engulfed dozens of businesses along an iconic Jersey shore boardwalk Thursday, as workers racing to contain the blaze's advance ripped up stretches of walkway only recently replaced in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
That last-ditch effort to save the heart of the town's tourism business — and its very economic survival — appeared to have worked. Two hours after public works crews ripped out a 25-foot swath of boardwalk that had been hurriedly rebuilt for a visit to Seaside Heights by Prince Harry in May, the flames had not advanced past the break.
Heavy equipment filled the breach with tall walls of sand to form makeshift dunes holding back not waves but fire.
"So far, so good," said Robert Matthies, the mayor of neighboring Seaside Park, where the blaze began around 2:30 p.m.
The blaze remained out of control as of 8:30 p.m. but firefighters reported some progress in containing it.
GOP leaders confounded on stopgap spending bill over conservative assault on 'Obamacare'
WASHINGTON (AP) — GOP leaders eager to avoid blame for a possible government shutdown next month appear confounded by conservatives' passion for using fast-approaching deadlines to derail the implementation of President Barack Obama's health care law.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, conceded Thursday his plan was all but dead for quickly passing a temporary spending bill that also defunds Obamacare, make the Senate vote on each idea separately and then send only the portion for keeping the government open to the White House for the president's signature.
Meanwhile, new freelance effort by rank-and-file Republicans to condition keeping the government open or preventing a debt ceiling default on delaying Obamacare for a year hit a brick wall of opposition from Democrats vowing to never let the health care law be delayed or unraveled.
Nonetheless, some Republicans floated the idea of postponing all of the unimplemented portions of the new law for a year — including a requirement that virtually everyone buys health insurance and with new tax subsidies to help many people pay for it — in exchange for raising the government's borrowing cap and easing tens of billions of dollars in broad, automatic spending cuts.
"Let's give them something and then we get something in exchange," Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said. "We give the administration the debt ceiling increase they want. We give them maybe some sequestration dollars that they would like to have. And in exchange we delay Obamacare, which I think the president should want. ... He's already delayed big chunks of it. It's not ready for implementation."
Heavy rains send water crashing down Colorado mountainsides; at least 3 are killed in deluge
LYONS, Colo. (AP) — Heavy rains sent walls of water crashing down mountainsides Thursday in Colorado, cutting off remote towns, forcing the state's largest university to close and leaving at least three people dead across a rugged landscape that included areas blackened by recent wildfires.
After a rainy week, up to 8 more inches fell in an area spanning from the Wyoming border south to the foothills west of Denver. Flooding extended all along the Front Range mountains and into some cities, including Colorado Springs, Denver, Fort Collins, Greeley, Aurora and Boulder.
Numerous roads and highways were washed out or made impassable by floods. Floodwaters poured into homes, and at least a few buildings collapsed in the torrent.
Boulder County appeared to be hardest hit. Sheriff Joe Pelle said the town of Lyons was completely cut off because of flooded roads, and residents were huddling together on higher ground. Although everyone was believed to be safe, the deluge was expected to continue into Friday.
"It is not an ordinary disaster," Pelle said. "All the preparation in the world ... it can't put people up those canyons while these walls of water are coming down."
Twitter says it has filed confidential documents for an initial public offering of stock
NEW YORK (AP) — Twitter has decided to go public. The company aptly announced on its short messaging service Thursday afternoon that it has filed documents for an initial public offering of stock.
The documents Twitter filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission are sealed, as Twitter is taking advantage of federal legislation passed last year that allows companies with less than $1 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year to avoid submitting public IPO documents.
The confidentiality will likely help Twitter avoid the public hoopla and intense scrutiny that surrounded the initial public offerings of other high-profile social networking companies, including Facebook Inc., which went public in May 2012.
The San Francisco-based company posted on its official Twitter account that it has "confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO." A subsequent tweet said simply: "Now, back to work." It's accompanied by a blurry photo of the company's offices.
Under the law, Twitter's financial statements and other sensitive information contained in the IPO filing must become publicly available at least 21 days before company's executives begin traveling around the country to meet with potential investors — a process known as a "road show."
Most Wanted American jihadi killed in Somalia, reports say; US expert: 'very likely true'
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — An American who became one of Somalia's most visible Islamic rebels and was on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist list with a $5 million bounty on his head was killed Thursday by rivals in the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab, militants said.
The killing of Omar Hammami, an Alabama native known for his rap-filled propaganda videos, may discourage other would-be jihadis from the U.S. and elsewhere from traveling to Somalia, terrorism experts said.
Hammami, whose nom de guerre was Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, or "the American," was killed in an ambush in southern Somalia following months on the run after falling out with al-Shabab's top leader, the militants said.
Reports of Hammami's death have cropped up every few months in Somalia, only for him to resurface. But J.M. Berger, a U.S. terrorism expert who closely follows the inner workings of al-Shabab, said he thinks the current reports are accurate.
The rebels did not immediately present proof of Hammami's death.
Talking tough, Kerry rejects Syria's offer on chemical weapons in opening meeting with Russia
GENEVA (AP) — Striking a tough tone, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry opened swiftly convened talks with Russia on Syria's chemical weapons Thursday by bluntly rejecting a Syrian pledge to begin a "standard process" by turning over information rather than weapons — and nothing immediately.
That won't do, Kerry declared at an opening news conference, a stone-faced Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at his side. "The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough."
"This is not a game," Kerry said of the latest developments in a series that has rapidly gone from deadly chemical attacks to threats of retaliatory U.S. air strikes to Syrian agreement with a Russian plan to turn over the weapons and, finally, to the crucial matter of working out the difficult details.
"We believe there is nothing standard about this process at this moment because of the way the regime has behaved," Kerry declared. And he kept alive the threat of U.S. military action, saying the turnover of weapons must be complete, verifiable and timely — "and finally, there ought to consequences if it doesn't take place."
Adding to the drama, Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in from afar, raising eyebrows with an opinion piece in The New York Times that chided Americans for seeing themselves as "exceptional." That was an apparent reference to a comment President Barack Obama made in his Syria speech Tuesday night, explaining why he felt the U.S. needed to take action. Congress has shown little inclination to authorize military action, and a vote on that has been put off.
Mo. priest sentenced to 50 years for producing, trying to produce child pornography
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City-area priest whose case led to a criminal conviction against his bishop will likely spend the rest of his life in a federal prison after being sentenced to 50 years on Thursday for producing or trying to produce child pornography.
The Rev. Shawn Ratigan pleaded guilty in August of last year to five counts — one for each of his five young victims. He was charged in May 2011 after police received a flash drive from his computer containing hundreds of images of children, most of them clothed, with the focus on their crotch areas.
Ratigan, 47, apologized to his victims and their families before learning his punishment and asked the judge for the statutory minimum sentence of 15 years for each count, with the terms to all run at the same time.
"Prison is hell," Ratigan said. "I know I deserve 15 years, but 50 years? Come on, I don't think so."
His public defender, Robert Kuchar, argued that Ratigan's offenses weren't as bad as those of other child pornographers whose photos are more graphic and often include images of the victims participating in sexual acts.
California Legislature raises minimum wage to $10 an hour, 1 of highest rates in nation
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's minimum wage would rise to $10 an hour within three years under a bill that is all but certain to head to Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday, giving the state one of the highest rates in the nation.
Washington state currently has the top minimum wage at $9.19 an hour, an amount that is pegged to rise with inflation. Some cities, including San Francisco, have slightly higher minimum wages.
The state Senate approved AB10 on a party-line 26-11 vote, sending it to the Assembly for a final vote that will be a mere formality before it goes to the governor. Brown indicated earlier this week that he would sign the bill, calling it an overdue piece of legislation that would help working-class families.
The bill would gradually raise California's minimum wage from the current $8 an hour to $10 by 2016.
It would be the first increase in the state's minimum wage in six years and comes amid a national debate over whether it is fair to pay fast-food workers, retail clerks and others wages so low that they often have to work second or third jobs.
Scathing obituary about abusive NV mother goes viral after appearing in Reno newspaper
RENO, Nev. (AP) — The children of an abusive woman whose horror stories prompted Nevada to become one of the first states to allow children to sever parental ties wrote a scathing obituary that was published in the local newspaper — and has since become an Internet sensation.
The obituary opened with a harsh statement about the legacy of Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick: "On behalf of her children who she abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after-life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty and shame that she delivered on her children."
Katherine Reddick said she wrote it about her mother, who died at a Reno nursing home Aug. 30 at the age of 78.
Now a psychology consultant for a school district outside Austin, Texas, she said she decided to share the story of their painful physical and mental abuse after consulting with her brother, Patrick Reddick. They said they grew up with four siblings in a Carson City orphanage after they were removed from their mother's home and had been estranged from her for more than 30 years.
"Everyone she met, adult or child was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity, and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit," the obit said. "Our greatest wish now is to stimulate a national movement that mandates a purposeful and dedicated war against child abuse in the United States of America."
Out there: NASA says its Voyager 1 probe has become first spacecraft to leave the solar system
LOS ANGELES (AP) — NASA's Voyager 1 probe has left the solar system, boldly going where no machine has gone before.
Thirty-six years after it rocketed away from Earth, the plutonium-powered spacecraft has escaped the sun's influence and is now cruising 11 1/2 billion miles away in interstellar space, or the vast, cold emptiness between the stars, NASA said Thursday.
And just in case it encounters intelligent life out there, it is carrying a gold-plated, 1970s-era phonograph record with multicultural greetings from Earth, photos and songs, including Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," along with Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Louis Armstrong.
Never before has a man-made object left the solar system as it is commonly understood.
"We made it," said an ecstatic Ed Stone, the mission's chief scientist, who waited decades for this moment.