In final hours of $4 billion campaign, there was no avoiding pesky political commercials
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — No, dear voter, it wasn't a dream. If you sat down in front of a television in Arkansas lately, you really did see that many political ads.
Some of you might even argue the final days of this election season have been a nightmare.
"There is so much negative advertising from the politicians that I don't know what they do stand for," said Jason Mizell, who cast an early ballot Friday at a Little Rock library.
And not just in Arkansas. Across the country, in the first election since both parties fully embraced the new world of campaign finance created by Supreme Court decisions, including Citizens United, the television ads during the campaign's final hours were practically nothing but politics.
Total federal spending was expected to reach the $4 billion mark, pushing these midterm elections to record levels. Deep-pocketed donors funneled millions to outside groups, which in many races accounted for more than two-thirds of the spending in competitive races.
Time to vote: Republicans aiming to win Senate control; Democrats hoping to limit losses
WASHINGTON (AP) — On a final, furious day of campaigning, Republicans strained to capture control of the Senate while Democrats struggled to limit their congressional losses in elections midway through an unpopular President Barack Obama's second term.
"The spending, the borrowing, the taxing, the overregulation, the slow growth. ... These people need to be stopped," Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said of the Democrats on Monday, urging voters to support him and GOP candidates everywhere. He would be in line to control the Senate's agenda as majority leader if Republicans win on Tuesday.
Democrats weighed down by Obama's unpopularity kept their distance from him and looked to a costly turn-out-the-vote operation in the most competitive Senate races to save their seats and their majority.
"There are two people on the ballot tomorrow: me and Scott Brown," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire as she made the rounds of six campaign stops on the race's final full day.
The cost of the campaign climbed toward $4 billion, and there seemed no end to the attack ads on television — or to the requests for donations keep them on the air.
White House: Ferguson no-fly didn't restrict press; recordings show aim was to keep media away
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House said Monday a no-fly zone the U.S. government imposed over Ferguson, Missouri, for nearly two weeks in August should not have restricted helicopters for news organizations that wanted to operate in the area to cover violent protests there.
Audio recordings obtained by The Associated Press showed the Federal Aviation Administration working with local authorities to define a 37-square-mile flight restriction so that only police helicopters and commercial flights could fly through the area, following demonstrations over the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
The Obama administration's defense of its actions centered on a provision of obscure federal regulations intended to allow press flights as long as they meet certain conditions. White House spokesman Josh Earnest sidestepped questions about conversations on the tapes showing police working with the FAA to keep media away.
"In this case, what the FAA says is that they took the prudent step of implementing the temporary flight restriction in the immediate aftermath of reports of shots fired at a police helicopter, but within 12 to 14 hours, that flight restriction was updated in a way to remove restrictions for reporters who were seeking to operate in the area," Earnest said.
On the tapes, an FAA manager is heard assuring a St. Louis County Police Department official that the updated restrictions would allow planes to land at nearby Lambert-St. Louis International Airport but, "It will still keep news people out. ...The only way people will get in there is if they give them permission in there anyway so ... it still keeps all of them out."
Egypt, Gulf Arab allies considering military alliance to take on Islamic militants
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait are discussing the creation of a military pact to take on Islamic militants, with the possibility of a joint force to intervene around the Middle East, The Associated Press has learned.
The alliance would also serve as a show of strength to counterbalance their traditional rival, Shiite-dominated, Iran. Two countries are seen as potential theaters for the alliance to act, senior Egyptian military officials said: Libya, where Islamic militants have taken over several cities, and Yemen, where Shiite rebels suspected of links to Iran have seized control of the capital.
The discussions reflect a new assertiveness among the Middle East's Sunni powerhouses, whose governments — after three years of post-Arab Spring turmoil in the region — have increasingly come to see Sunni Islamic militants and Islamist political movements as a threat.
The U.S. Arab allies' consideration of a joint force illustrates a desire to go beyond the international coalition that the United States has put together to wage an air campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have participated in those strikes in Syria. The officials said the alliance under consideration was not intended to intervene in Iraq or Syria but to act separately to address other extremist hot spots.
Three Egyptian military officials discussed details of the talks and a fourth confirmed their comments.
Supreme Court has tough questions for both sides in 'born in Jerusalem' passport case
WASHINGTON (AP) — Middle Eastern politics infused the Supreme Court's arguments Monday over a disputed law that would allow Americans born in Jerusalem to list their birthplace as Israel on their U.S. passports.
The justices appeared divided over whether the law should be struck down as unconstitutional, as the Obama administration wants, or put into effect as a result of a lawsuit filed by the parents of Jerusalem-born Menachem Zivotofsky.
Twelve-year-old Menachem, a baby when the case began in 2003, and his parents sat through the hour-long argument that saw justices wrestle with questions of the president's primacy in matters of foreign affairs and the effect the court's eventual decision could have on simmering tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
Justice Elena Kagan called Jerusalem a "tinderbox" at the moment and said the outcome of the case would be watched closely. "History suggests that everything is a big deal with respect to the status of Jerusalem," Kagan said.
On the other side, Justice Antonin Scalia said of the law, "If it is within Congress' power, what difference does it make whether it antagonizes foreign countries?"
A resurrection: World Trade Center reopens for business 13 years after 9/11 devastation
NEW YORK (AP) — Thirteen years after the 9/11 terrorist attack, the resurrected World Trade Center has opened for business — marking an emotional milestone for both New Yorkers and the nation.
Some staffers of publishing giant Conde Nast began working at 1 World Trade Center on Monday. The 104-story, $3.9 billion skyscraper dominates the Manhattan skyline. The publishing giant becomes the first commercial tenant in America's tallest building.
It's the centerpiece of the 16-acre site where the decimated twin towers once stood and where more than 2,700 people died on Sept. 11, 2001, buried under smoking mounds of fiery debris.
"The New York City skyline is whole again, as 1 World Trade Center takes its place in Lower Manhattan," said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns both the building and the World Trade Center site.
The agency began moving into neighboring 4 World Trade Center last week.
Islamic State group slaughters more families in Iraqi Sunni tribe; over 200 recently slain
BAGHDAD (AP) — Islamic State group militants shot and killed 36 Sunni tribesmen, women and children in public Monday, an Iraqi official and a tribal leader said, pushing the total number of members slain by the extremists in recent days to more than 200.
Sheik Naim al-Gaoud, a senior figure in the Al Bu Nimr tribe, said the militant group killed 29 men, four women and three children, lining them up in the village of Ras al-Maa, north of Ramadi in Anbar province.
The tribal leader said that 120 families were still trapped there.
"These massacres will be repeated in the coming days unless the government and its security forces help the trapped people," al-Gaoud said.
An official with the Anbar governor's office corroborated the account of Monday's killings. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to brief journalists.
Russian support for Ukrainian separatist vote to drag out sanction pain
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Moscow offered warm support Monday for rebel-organized elections in eastern Ukraine — an endorsement that could only serve to keep the West's sanctions against Russia in place.
Pro-Russian separatist authorities said Sunday's vote, which saw two rebel leaders easily reconfirmed in their roles, gives them a powerful mandate to slip further from Ukrainian rule.
Plans for the election had been condemned by the European Union and the United States, which said it violated Ukrainian law and undermined a 2-month-old cease-fire deal that has existed only on paper.
"The United States deplores and does not recognize yesterday's so-called separatist elections in eastern Ukraine, nor do we recognize any of the leaders chosen in this illegal vote," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Monday. "If Russia were to recognize the so-called elections, it would only serve to isolate it further. "
Russia's Foreign Ministry indicated in a statement that it would refrain from supporting outright independence for the Donbass, as Ukraine's heavily industrial eastern regions are known collectively.
Breach at security contractor USIS went undetected for months; similar to prior China hackings
WASHINGTON (AP) — A cyberattack similar to previous hacker intrusions from China penetrated computer networks for months at USIS, the government's leading security clearance contractor, before the company noticed, officials and others familiar with an FBI investigation and related official inquiries told The Associated Press.
The breach, first revealed by the company and government agencies in August, compromised the private records of at least 25,000 employees at the Homeland Security Department and cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars in lost government contracts.
In addition to trying to identify the perpetrators and evaluate the scale of the stolen material, the government inquiries have prompted concerns about why computer detection alarms inside the company failed to quickly notice the hackers and whether federal agencies that hired the company should have monitored its practices more closely.
Former employees of the firm, U.S. Investigations Services LLC, also have raised questions about why the company and the government failed to ensure that outdated background reports containing personal data weren't regularly purged from the company's computers.
Details about the investigation and related inquiries were described by federal officials and others familiar with the case. The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly on the continuing criminal investigation, the others because of concerns about possible litigation.
Investigators: Spaceship broke apart after system designed to slow descent deployed too soon
LOS ANGELES (AP) — An experimental rocket ship broke apart in flight over California's Mojave Desert after a device to slow the space plane's descent deployed too soon, federal investigators said.
The cause of Friday's crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo has not been determined, but investigators found the "feathering" system — which rotates the twin tail "feathers" to create drag — was activated before the craft reached the appropriate speed, National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Christopher Hart said.
The system requires a two-step process to deploy. The co-pilot unlocked the system, but Hart said the second step occurred "without being commanded."
"What we know is that after it was unlocked, the feathers moved into the deploy position, and two seconds later, we saw disintegration," Hart said.