AP sources: Pentagon lifts ban on women in combat, opening many thousands of front-line posts
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon is lifting its ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after generations of limits on their service, defense officials said Wednesday.
The changes, set to be announced Thursday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, will not happen overnight. The services must now develop plans for allowing women to seek the combat positions, a senior military official said. Some jobs may open as soon as this year, while assessments for others, such as special operations forces, including Navy SEALS and the Army's Delta Force, may take longer. The services will have until January 2016 to make a case to that some positions should remain closed to women.
The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.
Officials briefed The Associated Press on the changes on condition of anonymity so they could speak ahead of the official announcement.
There long has been opposition to putting women in combat, based on questions of whether they have the necessary strength and stamina for certain jobs, or whether their presence might hurt unit cohesion.
Fierce, emotional Clinton pushes back on Republican criticism of security after Libya attack
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered fiery rejoinders Wednesday to Republican critics of the Obama administration's handling of the deadly attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, facing off with lawmakers who included potential 2016 presidential rivals.
At times emotional and frequently combative, Clinton rejected GOP suggestions in two congressional hearings that the administration tried to mislead the country about the Sept. 11 attack that killed Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans. She insisted the State Department is moving swiftly and aggressively to strengthen security at diplomatic posts worldwide.
In her last formal testimony before Congress as America's top diplomat -- but perhaps not her last time on the political stage -- Clinton once again took responsibility for the department's missteps and failures leading up to the assault. But she also said that requests for more security at the diplomatic mission in Benghazi didn't reach her desk, and reminded lawmakers that they have a responsibility to fund security-related budget requests.
Three weeks after her release from a New York hospital -- admitted for complications after a concussion -- Clinton was at times defiant, complimentary and willing to chastise lawmakers during more than 5 ½ hours of testimony before two separate committees. She tangled with some who could be rivals in 2016 if she decides to seek the presidency again.
Her voice cracking at one point, Clinton said the attack and the aftermath were highly personal tragedies for the families of the victims who died -- Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty -- as well as herself.
NKorea warns it is poised to conduct nuclear test, carry out more long-range rocket launches
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea is warning that it is prepared to conduct a nuclear test and carry out more long-range rocket launches.
In a statement carried Thursday by state media, the National Defense Commission in Pyongyang threatened to wage a "full-fledged confrontation" against the U.S. for what it calls continued hostility.
The declaration follows the U.N. Security Council's condemnation of North Korea on Tuesday and expanded sanctions against the regime for launching a rocket in December. North Korea said the launch was a peaceful satellite mission, but the U.S. and others say it was actually a test of long-range missile technology.
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. FOR WOMEN, A CHANCE AT FRONT-LINE DUTY
The Pentagon is scrapping its ban on women serving in combat.
House OKs debt increase, averting US default, but big springtime clash with Obama still ahead
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Retreating with a purpose, Republicans sped legislation through the House on Wednesday to avert the imminent threat of a government default but pointing the way to a springtime budget struggle with President Barack Obama over Medicare, farm subsidies and other benefit programs.
The current legislation, which cleared the House on a bipartisan vote of 285-144, would permit Treasury borrowing to exceed the limit of $16.4 trillion through May 18. As it passed, Speaker John Boehner pledged that Republicans would quickly draft a budget that would wipe out deficits in a decade, and he challenged Democrats to do the same.
The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to approve the debt bill as early as Friday or perhaps next week. The White House welcomed the legislation rather than face the threat of a first-ever default at the dawn of the president's second term in the White House, and spokesman Jay Carney pointedly noted a "fundamental change" in strategy by the GOP.
House Republicans cast the bill as a way to force the Senate to draft a budget for the first time in four years, noting that if either house fails to do so, its members' pay would be withheld. They called the bill "no budget, no pay,'" a slogan if not a statement of fact, since lawmakers would be entitled to collect their entire salaries at the end of the Congress with or without a budget in place.
With polls showing their public support eroding, the Republicans jettisoned, for now at least, an earlier insistence that they would allow no additional borrowing unless Obama and the Democrats agreed to dollar-for-dollar federal spending cuts in exchange.
AP IMPACT: Middle-class jobs cut in recession feared gone for good, lost to technology
NEW YORK (AP) -- Five years after the start of the Great Recession, the toll is terrifyingly clear: Millions of middle-class jobs have been lost in developed countries the world over.
And the situation is even worse than it appears.
Most of the jobs will never return, and millions more are likely to vanish as well, say experts who study the labor market. What's more, these jobs aren't just being lost to China and other developing countries, and they aren't just factory work. Increasingly, jobs are disappearing in the service sector, home to two-thirds of all workers.
They're being obliterated by technology.
Year after year, the software that runs computers and an array of other machines and devices becomes more sophisticated and powerful and capable of doing more efficiently tasks that humans have always done. For decades, science fiction warned of a future when we would be architects of our own obsolescence, replaced by our machines; an Associated Press analysis finds that the future has arrived.
Venezuela vice president says plot uncovered, travels to Cuba to see Hugo Chavez
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuela's vice president said Wednesday that the government has uncovered a plot to attack him or another senior leader of President Hugo Chavez's party.
The purported plot involved "groups that have infiltrated the country," Vice President Nicolas Maduro said in a speech to government supporters. He added that the authorities believe the unidentified groups intended to attack him or National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, and then "try to blame one or the other."
After announcing the alleged plot, Maduro traveled to Cuba to see the ailing Chavez, who underwent cancer surgery more than six weeks ago. Cuban state television showed Maduro arriving in Havana on Wednesday night and being greeted by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
In a speech to supporters in Caracas on Wednesday afternoon, Maduro didn't provide any evidence of the plot or say what sort of attacks the authorities believed to have been planned. The vice president also didn't mention any arrests, but said: "Don't be surprised by the actions that will be taken in the coming days."
A large contingent of police and troops with rifles stood guard while Maduro spoke at an outdoor rally.
With Shakespeare's help, researchers show potential of DNA for storing digital information
NEW YORK (AP) -- It can store the information from a million CDs in a space no bigger than your little finger, and could keep it safe for centuries.
Is this some new electronic gadget? Nope. It's DNA.
The genetic material has long held all the information needed to make plants and animals, and now some scientists are saying it could help handle the growing storage needs of today's information society.
Researchers reported Wednesday that they had stored all 154 Shakespeare sonnets, a photo, a scientific paper, and a 26-second sound clip from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. That all fit in a barely visible bit of DNA in a test tube.
The process involved converting the ones and zeroes of digital information into the four-letter alphabet of DNA code. That code was used to create strands of synthetic DNA. Then machines "read" the DNA molecules and recovered the encoded information. That reading process took two weeks, but technological advances are driving that time down, said Ewan Birney of the European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton, England. He's an author of a report published online by the journal Nature.
Man who provided voice of Charlie Brown of 'Peanuts' fame arrested on threat, stalking charges
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The man who was the voice of Charlie Brown in several "Peanuts" television shows was charged Wednesday with stalking and threatening his former girlfriend and a plastic surgeon who gave her a breast enhancement he apparently didn't like.
Peter Robbins pleaded not guilty Wednesday in San Diego Superior Court to two counts of stalking and 10 counts of making criminal threats.
Prosecutors said the 56-year-old voice actor best known for his portrayal of Charlie Brown on the TV special "A Charlie Brown Christmas" repeatedly threatened his former girlfriend, calling her as many as 37 times in a 24-hour period on her cellphone and telling her he would kill her and her son if she did not give back his dog and car.
Prosecutors said he also threatened the plastic surgeon in the coastal city of Carlsbad, calling her office so many times she moved to a hotel temporarily out of fear for her life and hired an armed guard outside her clinic. Authorities said Robbins paid for the breast enhancement and was demanding his money back after they broke up, according to the criminal complaint.
On Dec. 31, Robbins allegedly confronted his former girlfriend in a hotel room, beating his dog and telling her he would not stop hurting the animal and would kill her if she did not get a refund for the surgery, Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth McClutchey told the judge in arguing that bail be increased to $550,000. McClutchey said he then grabbed his ex-girlfriend by the neck and shoved her against the door before fleeing.
No. 1 Duke goes 8 minutes without basket and is routed by No. 25 Miami 90-63
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -- With a steady din coming from the sea of orange behind the visitors' basket, No. 1 Duke had a tough time making a shot.
The Blue Devils went more than 8 minutes without a field goal in the first half Wednesday night, and a sellout became a blowout for No. 25 Miami, which delighted a boisterous crowd with a 90-63 victory.
The defeat was the third-worst ever for a No. 1 team. The last time Duke lost a regular-season game by a bigger margin was in January 1984.
"It wasn't demoralizing; they played better," Blue Devils guard Rasheed Sulaimon said. "I believe we have them on the schedule again."
"We expected them to be terrific, and we have to match terrific, and then you have a terrific game," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "What you had was a terrific win for them, but not a terrific game. We didn't hold our end of the bargain."