The Latest: Obama: Better future requires fixing politics
WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest on President Barack Obama's last State of the Union address. All times EST:
President Barack Obama aims to use his State of the Union address to sound a call for fixing the nation's broken politics.
The president says in excerpts released early that the nation can achieve the secure and prosperous future it wants — "but it will only happen if we work together" and "fix our politics."
He adds that the United States needs to have "rational, constructive debates."
Obama to declare nation's future depends on fixing politics
WASHINGTON (AP) — Lamenting the nation's persistently deep divides, President Barack Obama will declare Tuesday night that opportunity and security for American families "will only happen if we fix our politics."
In excerpts released ahead of his final State of the Union address, Obama says that while better politics doesn't mean all parties are in agreement, "democracy does require basic bonds of trust between citizens."
Obama's election-year call for political civility amounts to an admission that he's failed to make good on the lofty promises to bring Democrats and Republican together that were at the core of his political rise nearly eight years ago.
The president's address to Congress and a prime-time television audience comes three weeks before Americans begin voting in the race to succeed him. Seeking to put his imprint on the race, Obama will cast an optimistic vision for the future that builds on his eight years in office, while acknowledging that sweeping change has sparked anxieties for some citizens.
"America has been through big changes before," Obama says in the speech excerpts. "We made change work for us, always extending America's promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people. And because we did — because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril — we emerged stronger and better than before."
Pentagon: 2 US Navy boats held by Iran but will be returned
WASHINGTON (AP) — Iran was holding 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two small boats that drifted into Iranian waters with mechanical problems. Iran accused the sailors of trespassing but American officials said Tehran has assured them that the crew and vessels would be returned safely and promptly.
The sailors were expected to be transferred to U.S. custody Wednesday morning local time.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told The Associated Press that the riverine boats were moving between Kuwait and Bahrain when the U.S. lost contact with them.
U.S. officials said that the incident happened near Farsi Island in the middle of the Persian Gulf. They said some type of mechanical trouble with one of the boats caused them to run aground and they were picked up by Iran. The sailors were in Iranian custody on Farsi Island at least for some time, but it's not certain where they are now.
The semi-official Iranian news agency, FARS, said the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's navy has detained 10 foreign forces, believed to be Americans, and said the sailors were trespassing in Iranian waters. FARS also reported that one of the 10 sailors was a woman.
Suicide bomber kills 10, wounds 15 in Istanbul tourist area
ISTANBUL (AP) — A suicide bomber detonated a bomb in the heart of Istanbul's historic district on Tuesday, killing 10 foreigners — most of them German tourists — and wounding 15 other people in the latest in a string of attacks by the Islamic extremists targeting Westerners.
The blast, just steps from the historic Blue Mosque and a former Byzantine church in the city's storied Sultanahmet district, was the first by IS to target Turkey's vital tourism sector, although IS militants have struck with deadly effect elsewhere in the country.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the bomber was a member of IS and pledged to battle the militant group until it no longer "remains a threat" to Turkey or the world.
Davutoglu described the assailant as a "foreign national," and Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said he was a Syrian citizen born in 1988. However, the private Dogan news agency said the bomber was Saudi-born. Kurtulmus said the attacker was believed to have recently entered Turkey from Syria and was not among a list of potential bombers wanted by Turkey.
"Turkey won't backtrack in its struggle against Daesh by even one step," Davutoglu said, referring to IS by its Arabic acronym. "This terror organization, the assailants and all of their connections will be found and they will receive the punishments they deserve."
As oil plunges, energy companies cut jobs, postpone projects
LONDON (AP) — The world's biggest oil companies are slashing jobs and backing off major investments as the price of crude falls to new lows — and there may be more pain to come.
Companies like BP, which said Tuesday it is cutting 4,000 jobs, are slimming down to cope with the slump in oil, whose price has plummeted to its lowest level in 12 years and is not expected to recover significantly for months, possibly years. California-based Chevron said last fall that it would eliminate 7,000 jobs, while rival Shell announced 6,500 layoffs.
And it's not even the big producers that will be affected most, but the numerous companies that do business with them, such as drilling contractors and equipment suppliers.
While plummeting oil prices have been great news for motorists, airlines and other businesses that rely heavily on fuel, some 95,000 jobs were lost in the energy sector by U.S.-based companies in 2015, according to the consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That was up from 14,000 the year before.
Energy companies expanded as oil topped $100 a barrel in 2008 and stayed there during the early part of this decade, but prices have plunged over the past two years because of high supply and weakening demand
Lottery players go to great lengths for Powerball tickets
NIPTON, Calif. (AP) — Lottery ticket buyers have to suspend their belief in math to drop $2 on an infinitesimal chance to win the Powerball jackpot, but in Nevada, they also have to drive across the desert and wait in lines that can stretch for hours.
In Hawaii and Alaska, they need to cross an ocean or mountains to reach a lottery kiosk.
As if the 1 in 292.2 million odds of winning weren't inconvenient enough, people who live in the six states that don't participate in Powerball must put in considerable extra effort to get a ticket.
With the giant jackpot on his mind, retiree William Burke drove 45 minutes Monday from his home in Henderson, Nevada, to buy tickets in Nipton, California. Then he waited three hours to spend $20 on 10 tickets at a store that is among the nation's busiest lottery retailers.
"I thought maybe I'd be part of history," said Burke, a Vietnam veteran who joined hundreds of people bundled in coats and scarfs before the doors opened at the Primm Valley Lotto Store off Interstate 15.
AP source: NFL committee picks combined site over Rams' bid
HOUSTON (AP) — An NFL committee exploring moving teams to Los Angeles has recommended the combined stadium proposal involving Oakland and San Diego over St. Louis owner Stan Kroenke's ambitious plan for another venue, a person with knowledge of the vote said Tuesday.
League owners meeting in Houston will use that nonbinding recommendation as they consider whether to end a two-decade hiatus in the nation's second-largest media market. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the NFL hasn't announced the committee's vote, first reported by Sports Business Daily.
The Raiders and Chargers have agreed to share a stadium in Carson, California, while Kroenke wants to build a $1.8 billion showplace in Inglewood, closer to downtown LA.
No NFL franchise has moved since the Houston Oilers went to Tennessee in 1997. The Raiders and Rams both left Los Angeles after the 1994 season. The Rams had been in the LA area since 1946.
In a report to all 32 teams days before the meetings, Commissioner Roger Goodell deemed the venues in all three existing cities inadequate and said the stadium proposals lacked certainty. In the case of San Diego, that includes a public vote required for the financing.
House approves bill to sanction North Korea after nuke test
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans and Democrats joined together Tuesday to overwhelmingly approve legislation that aims to punish North Korea for conducting its latest nuclear test.
Just hours ahead of President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address, lawmakers passed the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act by a vote of 418-2. The bill proposes stronger sanctions that deny Pyongyang the money it needs for developing miniaturized nuclear warheads and the long-range missiles to deliver them, according to the legislation's backers.
Cutting off North Korea's access to cash also makes it difficult for Pyongyang to pay its army and police forces, said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"What we are concerned about here is the miniaturization of nuclear warheads that fit onto its most reliable missiles," Royce said Monday on the House floor. "This threat is unacceptable, and it has to be aggressively challenged."
The White House does not oppose the House sanctions bill, said a senior administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the legislation and requested anonymity. The administration is deeply concerned about North Korea's recent actions, the official said, and will continue to use existing sanctions authorities to prevent financial support for North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
Report: NPS river trips hostile to women in Grand Canyon
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Deep inside the Grand Canyon, on river trips that stretch for weeks, National Park Service workers have preyed on their female colleagues, demanding sex and retaliating against women who refused, a federal investigation found.
The Department of the Interior's Inspector General's report Tuesday was prompted by a complaint in 2014 accusing the Grand Canyon National Park's chain of command of mishandling complaints that trip leaders pressured female co-workers for sex, touched them inappropriately, made lewd comments and retaliated when rejected.
Thirteen current and former Grand Canyon employees filed the 2014 complaint alleging a pattern of abuse that continued for 15 years. The Inspector General's Office interviewed 80 people, 19 of whom said they experienced similar bad behavior; a park service human resources official described a "laissez faire" culture of "what happens on the river stays on the river" that continued even after the women formally complained.
Eight women said the men reacted in a hostile manner during the trips when rejected. Several accused a boatman of arbitrarily taking them to the wrong sites so that they couldn't do their assigned work. One accused the supervisor of leaving cans of human waste outside her tent. Another said non-compliant female colleagues were denied food.
The report charts a dozen instances in which park employees have been disciplined for sexual misconduct since 2003, ranging from a written reprimand to suspension and termination, but it concludes that responses to harassment complaints and any resulting discipline have been so inconsistent that many women decided against reporting them at all.
APNewsBreak: IAAF officials explored covering up Russia bans
PARIS (AP) — Six years before the IAAF banned Russia, track and field's governing body knew of doping so out of control it feared Russian athletes could die from abuse of blood-boosting drugs and transfusions, and officials considered collaborating with Russians to hide the full extent of the cheating before the 2012 London Olympics, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press.
When the massive scandal of state-sponsored doping and cover-ups in Russia finally erupted with full force in 2015, IAAF leaders acted as though blindsided. "This has been a shameful wake-up call," Sebastian Coe, the British Olympian and newly elected president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, said.
But in 2009, as a sophisticated new blood-testing program was launched, IAAF tests were already providing shocking insight into the scale and gravity of Russian doping, according to a six-year span of emails, letters and reports the AP received from a person intimately involved in the workings of the IAAF's anti-doping program. The person requested anonymity because he wasn't given permission to release the documents.
At that stage, the test results weren't enough on their own to sanction athletes, but they provided an early warning of the crisis and raise questions about why the organization entrusted with the safekeeping of one of the world's major sports waited six years before suspending Russia, which could see its athletes miss the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
"This matter of the Russian athletes' blood levels is now so serious and is not getting any better (in fact possibly getting worse) that immediate and drastic action is needed," Pierre Weiss, then the IAAF general secretary, wrote in an Oct. 14, 2009, hand-delivered letter to Valentin Balakhnichev, the Russian athletics president banned last week for life from the sport.
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