Obama orders Justice Department to send lawmakers classified rationale for drones
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama has directed the Justice Department to give Congress' intelligence committees access to classified legal advice providing the government's rationale for drone strikes against American citizens working with al-Qaida abroad, a senior administration official and Democratic lawmakers said Wednesday.
A drumbeat of demands to see the document has swelled on Capitol Hill in recent days as the Senate Intelligence Committee prepares to hold a confirmation hearing for John Brennan, who helped manage the drone program, to be CIA director.
Those demands were only intensified by the leak this week of an unclassified "white paper" on how decisions are made to target U.S. citizens abroad that the Justice Department confidentially sent to key lawmakers last year. The unclassified memo says it is legal for the government to kill U.S. citizens abroad if it believes they are senior al-Qaida leaders continually engaged in operations aimed at killing Americans, even if there is no evidence of a specific imminent attack.
The senior official said Obama decided to send lawmakers the classified rationale on Wednesday as part of his "commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters." Obama directed the Justice Department provide the Senate and House intelligence committees access to classified advice from its Office of Legal Counsel that the white paper is based on, the official said.
Legal opinions produced by the legal counsel's office are interpretations of federal law that are binding on all executive branch agencies.
Boy Scouts delay decision on whether to lift policy excluding gays, set new vote for May
IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Caught in an ideological crossfire, the Boy Scouts of America is putting off until May a decision on whether to ease its policy of excluding gays. Whatever the organization eventually does, it's likely to anger major constituencies and worsen schisms within Scouting.
The delay, which the Scouts attributed to "the complexity of this issue," was announced Wednesday after closed-door deliberations by the BSA's national executive board. Under consideration was a proposal to ease the longstanding ban on gays by allowing sponsors of local troops to decide for themselves on the membership of gay Scouts and adult leaders.
As the board met over three days at a hotel near Dallas, it became clear that the proposal would be unacceptable to large numbers of impassioned Scouting families and advocacy groups on both the left and right.
The iconic youth organization is now deeply entangled in the broader cultural and political conflicts over such issues as same-sex marriage and religious freedom. Tilting toward either side will probably alienate the other, and a midway balancing act will be difficult.
Gay-rights supporters contend that no Scout units anywhere should exclude gays, and vowed to maintain pressure on the BSA's corporate donors to achieve that goal. Some conservatives, including religious leaders whose churches sponsor troops, warned of mass defections if the ban were even partially eased. They urged supporters to flood headquarters with phone calls.
10 Things to Know for Thursday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:
1. BOY SCOUTS PUT OFF DECISION ON WHETHER TO KEEP EXCLUDING GAYS
Both left and right gear up for an intense campaign to sway the organization as it makes up its mind.
Financially strapped Postal Service plans to cut Saturday mail, but continue package delivery
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Saturday mail may soon go the way of the Pony Express and penny postcards. The Postal Service said Wednesday that it plans to cut back to five-day-a-week deliveries for everything except packages to stem its financial losses in a world radically re-ordered by the Internet.
"Our financial condition is urgent," declared Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe. But Congress has voted in the past to bar the idea of eliminating Saturday delivery, and his announcement immediately drew protests from some lawmakers. The plan, which is to take effect in August, also brought vigorous objections from farmers, the letter carriers' union and others.
The Postal Service, which suffered a $15.9 billion loss in the past budget year, said it expected to save $2 billion annually with the Saturday cutback. Mail such as letters and magazines would be affected. Delivery of packages of all sizes would continue six days a week.
The plan accentuates one of the agency's strong points: Package delivery has increased by 14 percent since 2010, officials say, while the delivery of letters and other mail has plummeted. Email has decreased the mailing of paper letters, but online purchases have increased package shipping, forcing the Postal Service to adjust to customers' new habits.
"Things change," Donahoe said.
AP sources: House Dems offer gun control plan resembling Obama's, include assault weapons ban
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Democrats will unveil 15 proposals for curbing gun violence that resemble President Barack Obama's plan and will include a call for banning assault weapons, people familiar with the package said Wednesday.
The Democrats' recommendations will also include barring high-capacity magazines carrying more than 10 rounds of ammunition, requiring background checks for all gun sales and prohibiting gun trafficking, all of which Obama proposed last month.
The proposals, to be released Thursday by top House Democrats, were described by people who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plan publicly. They represent the initial House Democratic response to the horrific Dec. 14 shooting of 20 first-graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Even so, the Democrats' proposals are unlikely to go anywhere quickly in the Republican-controlled House. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said the House will wait to see what the Democratic-led Senate does.
Obama's gun control proposals have been opposed by the National Rifle Association, which is a potent lobbying force on Capitol Hill. In addition, some Democrats -- including many from rural or conservative areas -- have been reluctant to endorse the president's plan.
FBI and police used military tactics, weapons, to rescue 5-year-old hostage in Alabama
Within hours after an armed, angry man shot a school bus driver and kidnapped a 5-year-old boy, workers feverishly unloaded boxes packed with percussive grenades, military C-4 explosives and an array of guns from a windowless DC-9 that had landed just miles from the suspect's isolated compound.
Helmeted officers decked out in tan fatigues, camouflage and body armor, many carrying long guns, rumbled in rented cargo trucks to and from the property in southeastern Alabama where 65-year-old Jim Lee Dykes and his young captive were hunkered down in a roughly 6-by-8-foot hand-dug bunker with only one small hatch for an entryway.
Two Humvees belonging to the Dale County Sheriff's Department and a tan, military-style personnel carrier were parked in a field beside the bunker throughout much of the ordeal, along with sport-utility vehicles. Officers dressed in combat-style gear could be seen watching the bunker from an opening in the roof of the tan personnel vehicle.
And as the standoff stretched into days, drones flew large, lazy circles high above the scene at night.
In many ways, the scene resembled more of a war-time situation than a domestic crime scene as civilian law enforcement relied heavily on military tactics and equipment to end the six-day ordeal.
World's eyes are on Acapulco rape case as Mexico prepares for peak spring break season
ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) -- The tourism world turned its eyes on Mexico after six Spanish women were raped by masked gunmen during a vacation in the long-troubled Pacific coast resort of Acapulco.
While there has been talk of reviving the golden era of the '40s and '50s, international tourists have long steered away from Acapulco, even before the drug violence of recent years, as the city fell into disrepair and glitzier Cancun and Los Cabos gained favor.
The question now is whether the attack will affect other resorts as Mexico prepares for its annual spring break onslaught and peak season.
The hours-long assault was carried out by a gang of masked gunmen who burst into the beachfront home before dawn on Monday and tied up the six men inside, then raped the women. A seventh Mexican woman was unharmed.
"We are really sorry about what happened with the Spanish tourists because ... it is something that affects Mexico's image," said Juan Carlos Gonzalez, tourism secretary of Quintana Roo, the Caribbean coast state where Cancun is located and which hosted about 17 million tourists last year.
Rare 1865 baseball card found at Maine yard sale sells for $92K at auction
BIDDEFORD, Maine (AP) -- A rare 148-year-old baseball card discovered at a rural Maine yard sale has been auctioned for $92,000.
Saco River Auction Co. in Biddeford held an auction Wednesday night that included a card depicting the Brooklyn Atlantics amateur baseball club.
Troy Thibodeau, manager and auctioneer at Saco River Auction, said the card drew plenty of interest. Bidding started at $10,000 and quickly rose to the final $92,000, which included an 18-percent premium.
The name of the buyer, who was at the auction house, was not released.
The card isn't the same as a modern-day baseball card, which became common in the 1880s. Rather, it's an original photograph from 1865 mounted on a card, showing nine players and a manager.
Lawsuit in Chicago: Answering calls, scanning emails after work hours deserves overtime
CHICAGO (AP) -- Does scanning emails and answering calls from bosses on your smartphone after hours constitute work that should be compensated? A lawsuit winding its way through federal court in Chicago says that it does.
Chicago police Sgt. Jeffrey Allen claims in the suit that the city owes him and fellow officers overtime pay for work performed on department-requisitioned BlackBerry phones. If the plaintiffs eventually prevail, it could mean millions of dollars in back pay.
The issue impacts workers everywhere, Allen's lawyer said Wednesday after a hearing in the case.
"Everybody can relate to this because people are being asked all the time these days to work for free and they are being told to work for free using their phones," attorney Paul Geiger said.
Earlier Wednesday, attorneys for both Allen and the city told a judge they had agreed on the wording of documents that will be sent to other officers asking if they want to join the lawsuit.
Chris Brown returns to Los Angeles court to address issues with probation; April hearing set
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- With the woman he assaulted throwing him a kiss, Chris Brown walked into court Wednesday to face allegations he failed to complete his community labor sentence for Rihanna's 2009 beating.
A judge asked for more information and scheduled another hearing in two months.
Rihanna, the glamorous singer whose bruised face became a tabloid fixture after she was beaten by her then-boyfriend on the way to the Grammys, has been dating Brown again.
She arrived with the R&B star, his mother and two other women and blew him a kiss as he entered the courtroom. They left together after the short proceeding in which Superior Court Judge James Brandlin set the next hearing for April 5.
Brown's lawyer, Mark Geragos, said he was disturbed about the way the district attorney handled the matter and said he would be filing a motion opposing the prosecution's move to modify Brown's fulfillment of his community labor sentence.