Obama's budget proposes cuts to Social Security, Medicare, in attempt to compromise with GOP
WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking an elusive middle ground, President Barack Obama is proposing a 2014 budget that embraces tax increases abhorred by Republicans as well as reductions, loathed by liberals, in the growth of Social Security and other benefit programs.
The plan, if ever enacted, could touch almost all Americans. The rich would see tax increases, the poor and the elderly would get smaller annual increases in their benefits, and middle income taxpayers would slip into higher tax brackets despite Obama's repeated vows not to add to the tax burden of the middle class. His proposed changes, once phased in, would mean a cut in Social Security benefits of nearly $1,000 a year for an average 85-year-old, smaller cuts for younger retirees.
Obama proposed much the same without success to House Speaker John Boehner in December. The response Friday was dismissive from Republicans and hostile from liberals, labor and advocates for the elderly.
But the proposal aims to tackle worrisome deficits that are adding to the national debt and placing a long-term burden on the nation, prompting praise from independent deficit hawks. Obama's budget also proposes new spending for public works projects, pre-school education and for job and benefit assistance for veterans.
"It's not the president's ideal approach to our budget challenges, but it is a serious compromise proposition that demonstrates that he wants to get things done," said White House press secretary Jay Carney.
Judge rules that morning-after pill can be sold over-the-counter to all ages
WASHINGTON (AP) — The morning-after pill might become as easy to buy as aspirin.
In a scathing rebuke accusing the Obama administration of letting election-year politics trump science, a federal judge ruled Friday that there should be no age restrictions on the sale of emergency contraception without a doctor's prescription.
Today, buyers must prove at the pharmacy that they're 17 or older; everyone else must see a doctor first. U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York blasted the government's decision on age limits as "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable," and ordered an end to the restrictions within 30 days.
The Justice Department was evaluating whether to appeal, and spokeswoman Allison Price said there would be a prompt decision.
President Barack Obama had supported the 2011 decision setting age limits, and White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday the president hasn't changed his position. "He believes it was the right common-sense approach to this issue," Carney said.
Obama apologizes to California AG for calling her 'the best-looking attorney general'
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has apologized to California Attorney General Kamala Harris for causing a stir when he called her "the best-looking attorney general" at a Democratic fundraiser they attended together this week.
A spokesman for Harris said she had a great conversation with Obama and strongly supports him but would not say whether she had accepted the president's apology.
Obama apologized to Harris by telephone Thursday night after returning from two days of fundraising in California, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
At a fundraiser in Silicon Valley earlier that day, Obama raised eyebrows when he said Harris "happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general in the country. It's true! C'mon." He prefaced the remark by saying she is "brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you'd want in anybody who is administering the law."
Harris was present and had addressed the crowd before the president spoke.
Rutgers' athletic director resigns amid basketball scandal that led to firing of coach
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Rutgers' coaching scandal spiraled deeper Friday, bringing down the popular athletic director and a school vice president while donors threatened to cut off their contributions to New Jersey's largest public university.
The day of mounting troubles for the school began with Athletic Director Tim Pernetti resigning over his failure to immediately fire coach Mike Rice, who was caught on video hitting, kicking and taunting players with anti-gay slurs at practice.
The video was shown Tuesday on ESPN, prompting outrage nationwide and on campus, where the coach's conduct was especially sensitive because of the 2010 suicide of a student who killed himself after his roommate used a webcam to record him kissing another man.
Rice was fired by Pernetti on Wednesday, but the athletic director immediately came under criticism for only suspending and fining the coach after the video was brought to his attention four months ago. Pernetti said Friday he wanted to fire Rice on the spot but did not because the consensus among school officials at the time was that it didn't warrant dismissal.
Rutgers President Robert Barchi came under harsh questioning from reporters at a news conference Friday over what he knew about the video months ago, but he got a nod of support from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the school's board of governors.
White supremacist gang member's arrest stems from probe into killing of Colorado prisons chief
DENVER (AP) — A white supremacist prison gang member was arrested and another was still being sought for questioning Friday in the death of Colorado's prisons chief as authorities investigated whether the gang had any ties to the killing.
James Lohr, who has the words "Hard" and "Luck" tattooed where his eyebrows would be, was taken into custody early Friday in Colorado Springs. He was wanted for questioning in the slaying of Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements.
Authorities believe Lohr was in contact with gang associate Evan Ebel days before the killings of Clements and pizza delivery man Nate Leon. Police said they believe Ebel killed Leon and Clements less than a week before he died in a Texas shootout, but the motive is unclear.
Clements was shot to death March 19 in Monument, just north of Colorado Springs. Leon was killed two days earlier. His body was found in the Denver suburb of Golden.
Colorado Springs police arrested Lohr after a short foot chase that started when officers tried to stop the car he was driving, according to a statement. Lohr was booked on felony evading charges and also was held on three outstanding arrest warrants unrelated to the Clements case. He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.
Pope Francis says he will act 'with determination' against sex abuse cases in church
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis directed the Vatican on Friday to act decisively on clergy sex abuse cases and punish pedophile priests, saying the Catholic Church's "credibility" was on the line. The announcement was quickly dismissed by some victims' advocates as just more talk, while others lobbying for reform in the church held out hope the new pontiff might challenge the Vatican's bureaucratic culture seen as fostering a cover-up mentality.
Clergy abuse victims called for swift and bold action from Francis as soon as he was elected pope last month. Yet in his homeland, Roman Catholic activists had characterized him as being slow to act against such abuse in his years heading the Argentine church.
The Vatican's brief announcement about Francis' meeting Friday with the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — the office that shapes and enforces policy on what to do about any abuse allegations and what happens to the abusers — depicted Francis as urging assertive action to protect minors.
"The Holy Father in a special way urged that the Congregation, following the line sought by Benedict XVI, act decisively in sex abuse cases, above all promoting measures to protect minors, assistance for all those who in the past suffered such violence, necessary measures against the guilty," the statement said of Francis' meeting with Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller.
The Vatican quoted Francis as saying abuse victims were always present "in his attention and in his prayers." It was the first announcement by the Vatican that Francis had made dealing with clergy sex abuse a priority of his fledgling papacy, and the pontiff seemed to be putting Mueller on notice that he would tolerate no easing of the crackdown.
Documents raise new questions for university attended by Colorado theater shooting suspect
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — New questions confronted the University of Colorado, Denver on Friday amid disclosures that a psychiatrist who treated theater shooting suspect James Holmes had warned campus police a month before the deadly assault that Holmes was dangerous and had homicidal thoughts.
Court documents made public Thursday revealed Dr. Lynne Fenton also told a campus police officer in June that the shooting suspect had threatened and intimidated her.
Fenton's blunt warning came more than a month before the July 20 attack at a movie theater that killed 12 and injured 70. Holmes had been a student in the university's Ph.D. neuroscience program but withdrew about six weeks before the shootings after failing a key examination.
Campus police officer Lynn Whitten told investigators after the shooting that Fenton had contacted her. Whitten said Fenton was following her legal requirement to report threats to authorities, according one of the documents, a search warrant affidavit.
"Dr. Fenton advised that through her contact with James Holmes she was reporting, per her requirement, his danger to the public due to homicidal statements he had made," the affidavit said.
Deputies: Ga. man unleashed pit bulls on neighbor's pet pig, stabbed the animal 15 to 20 times
SPRINGFIELD, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man unleashed his two pit bulls on a neighbor's pet pig that got loose in a mobile home park, then stabbed the animal 23 times in front of children and other onlookers, authorities said.
The pig — named Oliver — survived and was in critical condition at a veterinarian's office Friday, said Effingham County Sheriff's Office spokesman David Ehsanipoor. He added that Oliver had been stabbed mostly in his neck and hind parts.
The owner of the dogs, 23-year-old Benjamin Fullwood, was charged Wednesday with felony cruelty to animals, criminal trespass and obstruction of a law enforcement officer, Ehsanipoor said. The man's bond was set at $25,000, and a judge ordered him to have no contact with domestic animals, Ehsanipoor said. It was unclear Friday if Fullwood had an attorney.
Oliver got out of its owners' yard Wednesday afternoon and wandered into a mobile home park in Springfield, Ehsanipoor said. Residents of the park were trying to get in touch with the animal's owner, when Fullwood unleashed his two pit bulls on the pig and then began stabbing him in front of a group of people, including children, Ehsanipoor said.
"This was an unprovoked attack. The pig was posing no threat to anybody," Ehsanipoor said. "It was just brutal."
Senator: NASA hopes to put astronauts on asteroid by 2021 by hauling space rock close to Earth
WASHINGTON (AP) — NASA is planning for a robotic spaceship to lasso a small asteroid and park it near the moon for astronauts to explore, a top senator said Friday.
The ship would capture the 500-ton, 25-foot asteroid in 2019. Then using an Orion space capsule, a crew of about four astronauts would nuzzle up next to the rock in 2021 for spacewalking exploration, according to a government document obtained by The Associated Press.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the plan would speed up by four years the existing mission to land astronauts on an asteroid by bringing the space rock closer to Earth.
Nelson, who is chairman of the Senate science and space subcommittee, said Friday that President Barack Obama is putting $100 million in planning money for the accelerated asteroid mission in the 2014 budget that comes out next week. The money would be used to find the right small asteroid.
"It really is a clever concept," Nelson said in a press conference in Orlando. "Go find your ideal candidate for an asteroid. Go get it robotically and bring it back."
AP PHOTOS: On tiptoe, 6-year-olds pursue their ballet dreams in New York City
NEW YORK (AP) — Performing on pointed toe, scores of 6-year-olds auditioned Friday for coveted slots at the city's School of American Ballet.
It's one of seven auditions that will be held this spring for young dancers vying for about 100 openings for the school's fall term.
The school, founded by choreographer George Balanchine, has trained most of the New York City ballet's dancers, as well as hundreds of dancers for major ballet companies around the world.
Here's a collection of images from Friday's tryout.