AP INVESTIGATION: Nuclear smugglers sought extremist buyers CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) - In the backwaters of Eastern Europe, authorities working with the FBI have interrupted four attempts in the past five years by gangs with suspected Russian connections that sought to sell radioactive material to Middle Eastern extremists, The Associated Press has learned. The latest known case came in February this year, when a smuggler offered a huge cache of deadly cesium - enough to contaminate several city blocks - and specifically sought a buyer from the Islamic State group. Criminal organizations, some with ties to the Russian KGB's successor agency, are driving a thriving black market in nuclear materials in the tiny and impoverished Eastern European country of Moldova, investigators say. The successful busts, however, were undercut by striking shortcomings: Kingpins got away, and those arrested evaded long prison sentences, sometimes quickly returning to nuclear smuggling, AP found.
The Latest: Putin: Should Syria, Free Syrian Army be allies? BEIRUT (AP) - The latest developments after Syrian troops, emboldened by Russian airstrikes, launch a ground offensive against insurgents (all times local). -- 2:55 p.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin says French President Francois Hollande last week suggested that government forces in Syria form an alliance with the opposition's Free Syrian Army. Putin was in Paris on Friday for talks with Hollande as well as the leaders of Germany and Ukraine. Putin said in televised remarks Wednesday that he found Hollande's idea "interesting" but insisted Moscow still has too little information on the Free Syrian Army. He says "we still don't know where it is and who leads it." But the Russian leader added that "since (the Free Syrian Army) is supposed to be the combat unit of the so-called healthy opposition, it would create good conditions for a political settlement in Syria if they could join forces against the common enemy, terrorists, the Islamic State, the Nusra Front and others." --- 2:40 p.m.
Round 2: Downstream South Carolina towns brace for flooding GEORGETOWN, S.C. (AP) - Along South Carolina's coast, residents were preparing for a second round of flooding as rivers swollen from days of devastating rains make their way toward the Atlantic. And in the Columbia area, where some have started to return home to assess damage and clean up, the threat of more flooding still hadn't lifted. About 1,000 residents near the compromised Beaver Dam were told to evacuate Wednesday morning. Crews worked overnight after a sinkhole formed nearby, pumping water out of the pond to relieve pressure on the dam, but authorities said it could breach at any time.
Watch Top News Video
10 Things to Know for Today Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today: 1. NUCLEAR SMUGGLERS SOUGHT EXTREMIST BUYERS Gangs with suspected Russian ties attempted to shop radioactive material in Moldova to buyers from the Middle East, an AP investigation finds. 2. SOUTH CAROLINA SEES SUN BUT WEATHER WOES NOT OVER Residents are preparing for a second round of expected flooding as rivers swollen from days of devastating rains make their way toward the Atlantic. 3. FIGHTING ERUPTS IN CENTRAL SYRIA Activists say Syrian troops backed by Russian airstrikes are battling insurgents in the northwestern provinces of Idlib and neighboring Hama.
As Clinton campaigns, complications with her old boss arise WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama seemed to call Hillary Rodham Clinton's idea of a no-fly zone in Syria "half-baked." Clinton described the president's immigration strategy as "harsh and aggressive." And as Obama tries to rally Democrats around the chief economic proposal of his second term, the party's presidential front-runner stayed conspicuously silent. As Clinton looks for ways to distinguish her ideas from those of her former boss, the relationship between the man in the White House and the woman who hopes to replace him has grown increasingly complicated. No issue presents more potential for friction than trade. For months, Clinton has resisted weighing in on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the sweeping trade deal that has divided the Democratic base.
Mother-son bond over guns links Oregon, Connecticut slayings PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The deadly shooting last week at an Oregon community college has an eerie parallel with the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 20 pupils and six adult staff members in 2012. Like Adam Lanza, the gunman in the Connecticut massacre, Christopher Harper-Mercer was living a mostly solitary life with a mom who shared his fascination with firearms. Both stories illustrate the struggles parents face caring for a deeply troubled child, struggles that can inadvertently lead to a volatile outcome made easier by ready access to weaponry. "When you begin to bring guns into the home environment where you have that dangerous cocktail of behavior, that's pretty unbelievable," said Mary Ellen O'Toole, a former FBI profiler who directs George Mason University's forensic science program.
Did US strike on Afghan clinic exceed combat authority? WASHINGTON (AP) - The deadly U.S. attack on a hospital in Afghanistan, which U.S. officials have called a "mistake," leaves open the possibility that the decision to open fire exceeded the authority under which American forces have operated since their combat mission ended nearly a year ago, officials say. U.S. officials have declined to discuss most circumstances of the attack in Kunduz that killed 22 civilians, since American and Afghan investigations are underway. Gen. John F. Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told a Senate committee on Tuesday that he is requiring that every U.S. service member in Afghanistan be retrained on the circumstances in which U.S.
Thousands of drug inmates approved for early prison release WASHINGTON (AP) - Drug criminals once described by prosecutors as unrepentant repeat offenders are among those poised to benefit from new sentencing guidelines that are shrinking punishments for thousands of federal prisoners, according to an Associated Press review of court records. Many defendants cleared for early release starting this fall fit a more sympathetic profile: small-time dealers targeted by a draconian approach to drug enforcement. But an AP analysis of roughly 100 court cases also identified defendants who carried semi-automatic weapons, had past convictions for crimes including robbery and assault, moved cocaine shipments across states and participated in international heroin smuggling.
The Latest: Nobel laureate: I don't believe in eternal life STOCKHOLM (AP) - Latest developments in the announcements of the Nobel Prizes (all times local): --- 1:50 p.m. One of the winners of this year's Nobel Prize in chemistry says his work on how cells repair damaged DNA can be used to prevent serious diseases but says he doesn't believe in eternal life. Tomas Lindahl says "no, I don't believe in eternal life, but a lot of DNA damage can result in cancer and serious diseases so we want to counteract that damage as much as possible and then we first have to understand the mechanism of how the damage is established." Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences member Peter Brzezinski adds he doesn't think "the goal is to prevent aging" but that the new information can lead to a "better life when we are old, simply just by understanding the diseases that are linked to aging." --- 1:15 p.m.
Keuchel sharp, Astros beat Yankees 3-0 in AL wild-card game NEW YORK (AP) - A year ago, no one could've pictured this. Yet here they were, Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros, soaking in champagne, merrily posing for a victory shot on the mound at Yankee Stadium. After all that losing, this was one October win to remember. Pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his career, Keuchel baffled New York for six innings of three-hit ball. Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez homered, and the Astros beat the Yankees 3-0 Tuesday night in the American League wild-card game. "Nobody really gave us anything at the start of the year.