In shift of Syria focus, Pentagon abandoning goal of building new anti-IS rebel force WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration is overhauling its approach to fighting the Islamic State in Syria, abandoning a failed Pentagon effort to build a new ground force of moderate rebels and instead partnering with established rebel groups, officials said Friday. The shift, telegraphed weeks ago by disclosures that the effort had produced only a handful of trained rebels, is meant partly to take better advantage of U.S. airpower, which can play a bigger role now that Turkey is permitting American fighter jets to operate from its soil. But it is not expected to immediately give new momentum to a slow-moving - some would say stalled - American-led campaign against the Islamic State.
Analysis: GOP is party desperately in search of a leader in Congress, campaign trail WASHINGTON (AP) - The GOP is a party in chaos, desperately in search of a leader. In the unruly U.S. House, Republicans enjoy a near-historic majority, yet deep divisions between ultra-conservatives and more traditional GOP lawmakers have left them at a loss over who should be in charge. In the Republican presidential primary, experienced governors and senators - long the party's national leaders-in-waiting - are overshadowed by outsiders like Donald Trump who only seem to get stronger as they challenge the GOP establishment. Trump even claimed he helped push California Rep. Kevin McCarthy out of the race for House speaker this week, a shocking pullback by a lawmaker seen as the heir apparent.
Divided House GOP pressures Paul Ryan to run for speaker: 'The only guy who can unite us' WASHINGTON (AP) - Endlessly divided, House Republicans pleaded with Rep. Paul Ryan on Friday to rescue them from their damaging leadership vacuum. But the GOP's 2012 vice presidential nominee showed little appetite for the prestigious yet thankless job of speaker of the House. The Wisconsin Republican who chairs the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee - his dream job, he's repeatedly declared - refused comment again and again as reporters chased him around the Capitol a day after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy shocked his colleagues by withdrawing from the speaker's race moments before the vote. McCarthy's abrupt decision came just two weeks after the current speaker, John Boehner of Ohio, announced his own plans to resign at month's end, citing opposition from the small but strident bloc of hardcore conservatives who almost immediately turned on McCarthy, Boehner's No.
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Israel struggles to contain spreading violence; 6 Palestinians reported killed in border clash GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Unrest that erupted several weeks ago at Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site spread Friday to Gaza in the form of deadly border clashes with Palestinian protesters, as Israeli security forces struggled to contain a wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks against civilians and soldiers. For the first time since the current violence began, clashes broke out along the Gaza border after Palestinians in the territory ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas rolled burning tires and threw rocks at Israeli troops on the frontier. Six Palestinians were killed and a dozen were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
1 student killed, 3 wounded at Arizona campus during fight between fraternity members FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - An overnight brawl between two groups of students escalated into violence Friday when a freshman at Northern Arizona University opened fire on four fraternity members, killing one and wounding three. Steven Jones, an 18-year-old fraternity pledge, told police he shot the group of students only after they hit him in the face and chased him, according to court documents. He also said he tried to administer first aid to one of the victims. Prosecutors said the suspect's account amounted to a "self-serving" statement and alleged Jones was the aggressor. "There is no indication of self-defense here," Deputy County Attorney Ammon Barker said.
Obama says 'it's about the families' after meeting victims of deadly Oregon school shooting ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) - President Barack Obama, faced with protests over his meeting Friday with victims of an Oregon shooting, held to his view that something must be done about deadly gun crimes. But given the freshness of the week-old tragedy, he said, "Today, it's about the families." "I've got some very strong feelings about this," Obama said, adding that these occasions always remind him that anyone could be the victim. At Umpqua Community College in Roseburg last week, a gunman killed eight students and a teacher before using the weapon to take his own life. On Friday, fatal shootings were reported at colleges in Arizona and Texas.
Farmers look at devastating peanut, cotton losses as S. Carolina floodwaters roll downstream BRANCHVILLE, S.C. (AP) - Thad Wimberly tugs on a clump of peanuts, shaking off the mud as he cracks the soggy shells to inspect his crop. But all he can do is sigh as his livelihood disintegrates between his fingers. Just a week ago, the 2,500 acres Wimberly farms with his partner, Jonathan Berry, baked in a drought that wiped out his corn crop. Now, his fields 60 miles south of Columbia in Branchville are filled with water. Moisture is trapped in his peanuts, creating mold and other toxins that make them unfit for humans and animals to eat. He expects to lose as much as $1 million this year, as crop insurance only covers a portion of market prices.
Nobel Peace Prize gives boost to Tunisia's fledgling democracy as it copes with economy woes TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) - It was the fall of 2013 and Tunisia's newfound democracy was in grave danger. The assassination of a left-wing politician had prompted the opposition to walk out of the constitutional assembly. The government was paralyzed, the constitution unfinished and the country on the brink of war. In nearby Egypt, which had followed Tunisia in a democratic revolution, a coup had just overthrown the Islamist government, and some sectors in Tunisia wanted to follow suit. Then four civil society groups - the main labor union, the bar association, the employers' association and the human rights league - stepped into the fray.
Federal judge in Massachusetts refuses to throw out defamation suit filed against Bill Cosby BOSTON (AP) - A defamation lawsuit brought against Bill Cosby by three women who say he sexually abused them decades ago can move forward, a federal judge in Massachusetts ruled Friday, delivering a legal blow to the comedian as he attempts to defend himself against accusations of sexual assault by dozens of women. The women claim in their lawsuit that Cosby's representatives damaged their reputations by denying their allegations in sometimes disparaging language. Cosby's lawyers had asked the judge to dismiss their suit, arguing that the remarks were personal opinions protected by the First Amendment and legal declarations made in his defense.
AP Exclusive: Tally shows Saudi hajj crush deadliest tragedy to ever strike annual pilgrimage DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - One survivor of last month's crush and stampede at the hajj in Saudi Arabia recalled seeing so many bodies that he couldn't tell how many there were. The Associated Press sought to answer that question, arriving at a death toll of at least 1,470. That made the Sept. 24 disaster the deadliest accident ever at the annual pilgrimage. And hundreds remain missing. The AP count is 701 higher than Saudi Arabia's official tally of 769 killed and 934 injured in the Sept. 24 disaster in Mina, a few miles from the holy city of Mecca.