AP INVESTIGATION: Nuclear black market seeks IS extremists 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.
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.
Russia fires cruise missiles from warships into Syria DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) - Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired cruise missiles Wednesday as Syrian government troops launched a ground offensive in central Syria in the first major combined air-and-ground assault since Moscow began its military campaign in the country last week. The missiles flew nearly 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) over Iran and Iraq and struck Raqqa and Aleppo provinces in the north and Idlib province in the northwest, Russian officials said. The Islamic State group has strongholds in Raqqa and Aleppo, while the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front has a strong presence in Idlib. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Russia was continuing to strike targets other than Islamic State militants, adding that he was concerned about the Syrian ground offensive backed by Moscow's airpower.
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South Carolina still on edge from floods; 2 die in truck GEORGETOWN, S.C. (AP) - Rivers rose and dams bulged Wednesday as South Carolina faced another anxious day of waiting for the floodwaters to recede, and search teams found the bodies of two people who died after they drove around a barricade and into standing water. At least 19 people in South Carolina and North Carolina have died in the storm. Along the coast, residents prepared for a second round of flooding as rivers swollen from days of devastating rains make their way toward the Atlantic. In the Columbia area, where some returned home to assess damage and clean up, the threat of more flooding still hadn't lifted.
Trio wins Nobel Prize for mapping how cells fix DNA damage STOCKHOLM (AP) - Tomas Lindahl was eating his breakfast in England on Wednesday when the call came - ostensibly, from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It occurred to him that this might be a hoax, but then the caller started speaking Swedish. It was no joke: Lindahl and two others had won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for pioneering studies into the way our bodies repair damage to DNA. "Their work has provided fundamental knowledge of how a living cell functions" and is used in developing new cancer treatments, the academy said. Lindahl, who is Swedish, was honored along with American Paul Modrich and U.S.-Turkish scientist Aziz Sancar for research done in the 1970s and '80s.
The Latest: US aircraft rerouted over Syria, avoids Russians BEIRUT (AP) - The latest developments after Syrian troops, emboldened by Russian airstrikes, launch a ground offensive against insurgents (all times local). --- 7:05 p.m. The Pentagon says at least one U.S. military aircraft changed its route over Syria recently to avoid coming dangerously close to Russian warplanes. A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, said Wednesday that he could not provide details, including the number of times this has happened. He says U.S. aircraft are still flying attack and other missions daily over Syria, but he acknowledged that the air operations have had to be adjusted since the Russians began flying.
Anxious Israelis told to be on alert amid wave of attacks JERUSALEM (AP) - Palestinian assailants carried out a series of stabbings across Israel on Wednesday, jolting an anxious country unnerved by weeks of unrest as clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian demonstrators raged across the West Bank. The violence forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call off a high-profile visit to Germany and prompted him to tell the nation to be on "alert" for further trouble. And in another sign of the tensions, Jerusalem's mayor, Nir Barkat, was seen carrying an assault rifle while visiting an Arab neighborhood. The unrest began three weeks ago and has spread from the confines of a sensitive Jerusalem holy site to spots across Israel and the West Bank.
As Bush campaigns, Florida struggles with his schools legacy TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Jeb Bush's signature achievement in education policy as Florida governor may be at risk of coming apart. A champion of what became known as Common Core education standards, Bush pushed a set of high-stakes tests for students and a system of grading schools as the centerpiece of an education agenda that defines much of his legacy in office. In the Republican presidential campaign, any mention of Common Core is a red flag for conservatives and Bush rarely talks about the program by its name. But he has not backed down on what is the core of Common Core - the conviction that states need to raise their school standards.
VW CEO: Emissions fixes could take until end of next year WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) - Volkswagen said a recall of cars with software that can be used to evade emissions tests could start in Germany in January and last until the end of next year. The recall does not yet include cars in the U.S., where the scandal engulfing the world's largest carmaker erupted. Any recall there will have to be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, which disclosed the rigging last month, and the California Air Resources Board. Confirmation of the planned launch date of the recall of 2.8 million cars in Germany came in an interview with VW CEO Matthias Mueller published Wednesday in the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
The Latest: Will the real Tomas Lindahl accept his Nobel? STOCKHOLM (AP) - Latest developments in the announcements of the Nobel Prizes (all times local): --- 7:05 p.m. Tomas Lindahl, a professor at the microbiology division of Linkoping University in Sweden, got swamped with emails Wednesday congratulating him on winning the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Except he didn't. Another Tomas Lindahl did. Also Swedish, also a chemistry expert, but based in Britain for decades. "I think it's sort of fun actually. To be mixed up with a Nobel Prize winner when I'm doing research in chemistry myself," Tomas Lindahl in Linkoping told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. The paper said the local government in Linkoping sent out a press release congratulating the wrong Lindahl then quickly withdrew it.