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"An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say, and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year," those officials tell The Associated Press.
The wire service writes that "four U.S. officials said the American suspected terrorist is in a country that refuses U.S. military action on its soil and that has proved unable to go after him."
The Washington Post, which has followed up on the AP report, writes that "U.S. officials" it has spoken with "said that no decision has been reached on whether to add the alleged operative to the administration's kill list, a step that would require Justice Department approval under new counterterrorism guidelines adopted by President Obama last year."
CNN writes that a senior U.S. official says "high-level discussions" are under way about "staging an operation to kill an American citizen involved with al-Qaida and suspected of plotting attacks against the United States."
That network adds that the official "declined to disclose any specific information about the target or the country the suspect presides in."
WASHINGTON — There was bipartisan consensus after the 9/11 attacks, in Congress and among Americans, that the United States would never again ignore rising threats in distant lands and allow al Qaida or other terrorist groups to gain sanctuary as it had in Afghanistan.
More than a dozen years ago, nine days after the World Trade Center fell and the Pentagon burned, President George W. Bush told a joint session of Congress: “The only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it and destroy it where it grows.”
Lawmakers leapt to their feet and burst into applause; Bush’s approval rating soared.
Now the black flag of al Qaida flies in Fallujah, the group and its offshoots are spreading across the Middle East and Africa, and their fighters are battling for control of cities not only in Iraq but also in Syria, Lebanon and beyond.
The Obama administration came under renewed pressure to disclose the legal grounds for its drone programme on Monday, amid reports that another US citizen accused of plotting attacks against Americans for al-Qaida overseas is to be assassinated.
Legal experts and civil liberties campaigners urged the White House to explain the basis for a potential strike against the suspect, alleged to be an active “facilitator” for the terrorist network and already responsible for deadly attacks on Americans.
Senior US officials were reported by the Associated Press to be weighing the benefits of killing the man against the likelihood of international condemnation and domestic criticism for targeting an American who has not been not charged with a crime. The Washington Post said it had confirmed the story.
Hina Shamsi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) National Security Project, said the Obama administration “continues to fight against even basic transparency” about how it justifies the executions of thousands of people under the programme.
Frustrated about prospects of getting Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a long-term security deal, the United States is considering waiting until he leaves office before completing the pact and deciding on a troop presence beyond 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.
"If he's not going to be part of the solution, we have to have a way to get past him," the Journal quoted a senior U.S. official as saying. "It's a pragmatic recognition that clearly Karzai may not sign the (deal) and that he doesn't represent the voice of the Afghan people."
The White House, asked about the report, said it was standing by its previous comments on the issue.
The United States would like to leave more than 10,000 troops in Afghanistan for counterterrorism and training of Afghan forces after U.S. forces formally withdraw at the end of this year following a 13-year mission in Afghanistan begun after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
The non-profit group Better Markets filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department on Monday to block what it called an "unlawful" $13 billion settlement with JP Morgan over bad mortgage loans sold to investors before the financial crisis.
The record settlement with the bank, which was reached in November, does not release JP Morgan from potential criminal liability over the mortgages it packaged into bonds.
But Better Markets said it was still appalled that the settlement gave the bank "blanket civil immunity" for its conduct without sufficient judicial review.
"The Wall Street bailouts were bad enough, but now taxpayers are being forced to accept a secretive backroom deal that may well have been another sweetheart deal," said Dennis Kelleher, the chief executive of Better Markets.
"The Justice Department cannot act as prosecutor, jury and judge and extract $13 billion in exchange for blanket civil immunity to the largest, richest, most politically connected bank on Wall Street."
BERLIN — Not long before Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was secretly recorded cursing the European Union’s efforts in Ukraine, two European Union officials were caught in a very similar situation, complaining about the United States.
In the first recorded conversation, EU diplomat Helga Schmid was speaking to the EU’s ambassador to Ukraine, Jan Tombinski, discussing perceived slights.
“The Americans are going around telling people we’re too weak, while they are tougher on sanctions,” Schmid can be heard saying. “It really bothers us that the Americans are going around naming and shaming us.”
Al Jazeera America
More than 3,000 birds were rescued in what authorities are calling the largest cockfighting takedown in New York state history, with nine people arrested and dozens more taken into custody over the weekend.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a statement Sunday night saying that Operation Angry Birds included three simultaneous raids in the New York City boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn and in Ulster County and was among the largest animal-fighting crackdowns in U.S. history.
"Cockfighting is a cruel, abusive and barbaric practice that tortures animals, endangers the health and safety of the public and is known to facilitate other crimes," Schneiderman said.
At the cockfights, spectators were charged for admission and an additional fee for a seat in the secret basement location that housed the all-night events, authorities said. Spectators placed bets on the fights, with individual wagers reaching as high as $10,000.
The United States is expected to roll out the red carpet for François Hollande on Monday as the president becomes the first French leader to make a state visit for nearly two decades.
The three-day visit, which includes a black-tie dinner at the White House and a trip in the presidential plane Air Force One, is seen as evidence of the close ties between the US and France.
As well as talks with Barack Obama, who has hosted only six state dinners since he took office in 2009, Hollande will visit Silicon Valley and have lunch with the heads of key new technology and social networking companies.
He will also tour the francophile president Thomas Jefferson's house in Charlottesville, Virginia. However, unusually, he will not address Congress. Both the White House and the Elysée insist this is due to a lack of time.
In San Francisco, Hollande will meet Eric Schmidt, the head of Google, and the Facebook chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, as well as representatives from Twitter and Mozilla.
Michael Sam, a 24-year-old college football star who is on the cusp of becoming the first openly gay player in National Football League history after he came out on Sunday, could slide down in this year’s NFL draft due to his announcement, experts and professionals in the game have warned.
Sam engaged in a round of interviews with the New York Times and ESPN on Sunday, in which he said he had decided to declare his sexuality ahead of the draft, which will be held in May, in order to pre-empt swirling rumours.
“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it. I just want my own truth,” he said.
First lady Michelle Obama took to Twitter on Monday to laud Sam as an inspiration. “We couldn’t be prouder of your courage both on and off the field,” she wrote.
Should he be selected in the draft, or be signed as a free agent after it, Sam will not only become the first openly gay player in the country’s most popular professional league, but also an extremely rare example of an out professional sportsman in any of America’s major sports. There are currently no publicly gay players in Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association or the National Hockey League.
This time, Georgia officials seem determined to get way out ahead of the weather.
With the National Weather Service warning that another blast of rain, sleet, snow and possibly ice is headed for the Deep South later today, authorities are urging Atlantans to be off the roads by early evening.
And Gov. Nathan Deal, R, is specifically asking truckers to stay out of Atlanta's "perimeter" — the area inside the loop around the city formed by Interstate 285.
Deal and other Georgia officials are trying to avoid, of course, a repeat of what happened the last week of January, when snow and ice hit Atlanta and thousands of drivers were forced to abandon their vehicles as roads became impassable, iced-over parking lots. While state and local officials later apologized for not moving faster to warn Atlantans of the approaching storm and to prepare for it, they also said that jackknifed trucks in particular were a major part of the problem during that storm.
Wall Street veterans would no longer be allowed to act as arbitrators in many legal disputes between investors and their brokerages under a proposal that a U.S. regulator will present to its board on Thursday, a person familiar with the matter said.
The plan by the U.S. brokerage industry self-regulator, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), would mean that investors could opt to have their cases heard by a panel of three so-called public arbitrators who would not include people who had past industry ties.
That would not only exclude former bankers and brokers but also others, such as lawyers who worked on behalf of brokerages, even for brief periods in their careers, the person said.
FINRA allows people who have been out of the industry for at least five years - but who may have worked in it as many as 20 years - to hear cases as public arbitrators.
An Afghan girl has been diagnosed with polio in Kabul - the capital's first case since the Taliban's fall in 2001.
The health ministry ordered a vaccination campaign across the capital after the three-year-old was diagnosed.
Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern Nigeria, but has been almost wiped out around the world.
In all three countries Islamic extremists have obstructed health workers, preventing polio eradication campaigns from taking place.
Since the Afghan Taliban changed their policy, allowing vaccination in recent years, there has been a decline in cases in Afghanistan.
There were 80 cases in 2011, 37 in 2012, and 14 in 2013.
The emergence of a new case in Kabul is worrying health officials.
An Irish cabinet minister has vowed to boycott New York City's annual St Patrick's Day parade over the march organiser's ban on posters and banners promoting gay rights.
The Labour party minister for social protection, Joan Burton, confirmed she had turned down an invitation to the 17 March celebrations of Ireland's national saint in solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists.
They have been campaigning in Ireland and the United States for Irish ministers to snub this year's parade because of the exclusion of LGBT groups including many with links to the Republic from the biggest St Patrick's Day event outside of Dublin.
Burton said: "It's a great, fun day, but to me it needs to be inclusive of the whole Irish cultural experience and the whole width and breadth and diversity of Irish people and descendants of Irish people who have gone to the United States."
Al Jazeera America
Ireen Wust, one of seven openly gay athletes competing in at the Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi, won a speed-skating gold medal Sunday — a victory at an event that has thrown Russia’s anti-gay laws under a harsh international spotlight.
“Seventeen million Dutch wanted me to win,” Wust said. “Now the extreme pressure is off, and I can win more.”
She turned in a time of 4 minutes, 0.34 seconds in the 3,000 meters, defeating the defending Olympic champion, Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic. Wust’s participation at Sochi marks her third straight Winter Olympics.
Her triumph comes as Russia faces strong international criticism over its treatment of lesbians and gays. Adding fuel to the fire, Russian police arrested at least 14 gay-rights activists protesting in Moscow and St. Petersburg on the opening day of the Winter Games.
UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi held separate closed-door meetings with Syrian government and opposition representatives at the latest round of talks in Geneva on Monday. The first face-to-face meeting between the two sides ended 10 days ago with little agreement.
"The negotiations cannot continue while the regime is stepping up its violence against the Syrian people," opposition spokesman Louay Safi (pictured) told reporters after a 90-minute meeting with Brahimi. "It is not acceptable that the regime will send its own delegation to talk peace while it is killing our people in Syria. This must stop. We asked the international community to do something about it."
After one meeting, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad condemned the reported massacre of civilians by Islamist rebel forces when they overran the central village of Maan on Sunday.
"The number of those killed yesterday by the terrorist groups is over 50," Mekdad told reporters, adding that "four disabled people were slaughtered like sheep."
The UK Environment Agency on Monday issued 14 severe - meaning lives (and more than 2,500 homes) are at risk - flood warnings for the Thames in the affluent counties of Surrey and Berkshire to the west of London. Many people in Somerset, one of the hardest-hit counties in the southwest, blame the devastating floods on the failure of the Environment Agency to dredge local rivers.
On Sunday, Communities Minister Eric Pickles joined the attack, suggesting that the government had "perhaps relied too much on the Environment Agency's advice" on flood prevention. Pickles, a member of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, told BBC TV that "we thought we were dealing with experts."
On Monday, Chris Smith, the head of the Environment Agency, hit back and accused ministers of having held back vital funds. Smith, a former member of parliament for the Labour Party, said the Treasury had limited the amount the agency could spend on flood management in Somerset.
An Arab-Iranian poet and human rights activist, Hashem Shaabani, has been executed for being an "enemy of God" and threatening national security, according to local human rights groups.
Shaabani and a man named Hadi Rashedi were hanged in unidentified prison on January 27, rights groups have said.
Shaabani, who spoke out against the treatment of ethnic Arabs in the province of Khuzestan, had been in prison since February or March 2011 after being arrested for being a Mohareb, or "enemy of God".
Last July, the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal found Shaabani and 13 other people guilty of "waging war on God" and spreading "corruption on earth".
The 32-year-old was the founder of Dialogue Institute and was popular for his Arabic and Persian poems. In 2012, he appeared on Iran's state-owned Press TV, where human rights groups say he was forced to confess to "separatist terrorism".
Al Jazeera America
Yemen's president on Monday formally approved turning the country into a federal union of six regions, giving the south more autonomy and reaching a milestone in his planned transition to democracy.
Yemen is currently a single state with a relatively weak central government.
The move was immediately rejected by some southerners who insist on a separate state, raising fears the impoverished country may face further instability in addition to the challenges it already faces from armed groups and a northern rebellion.
Demands by southern separatists to restore the state that merged with North Yemen in 1990 had delayed an agreement on broad reforms ahead of general elections.
Under the new system approved by President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Yemen will be split into six regions.
The former South Yemen will be divided into two regions, Aden and Hadramout, according to state news agency Saba. The more populous former North Yemen will be divided into four regions.
Germany's Constitutional Court ruling last Friday marks a significant escalation in efforts to rein in the European Central Bank. The ruling's message? Either the European Court of Justice has to stop bond purchases or German justices will.
Last Friday, when six justices on Germany's Constitutional Court cast doubt on European efforts to save the euro, the man who initiated the case was sitting obliviously at his desk. It was only when his secretary burst excitedly into his office that Peter Gauweiler understood that his case had created legal history.
Gauweiler, a member of German parliament who also has a legal firm located in Munich, managed to convince a majority of justices on the court's second senate that the ECB's program to save the European common currency is contrary to European law. The court referred the case onward to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, a first for the Karlsruhe-based German court. "Karlsruhe has shown ECB President Mario Draghi what a bazooka really is," Gauweiler crowed.
Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn said he saw no reason to keep demanding that Apple Inc increase its stock buyback plans, citing the company's recent stock repurchases as well as an influential proxy adviser's call against his proposal.
In a letter to Apple shareholders on Monday, Icahn wrote that he had decided to ditch his nonbinding proposal, "especially when the company is already so close to fulfilling our requested repurchase target."
Apple shares were up 1.8 percent at $529.20 in morning trading.
Icahn for months has been asking Apple to boost its plans for a stock buyback program, proposing it give back $50 billion more. On Sunday, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc recommended that shareholders vote against Icahn's proposal, saying such a motion would "micromanage" how the company uses capital.
Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were the most generous American philanthropists in 2013, with a donation of 18m shares of Facebook stock valued at more than $970m (£590m) to a Silicon Valley non-profit.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported on Sunday that Zuckerberg's donation was the largest charitable gift on the public record in 2013 and put the young couple at the top of the magazine's list of 50 most generous Americans in 2013. The top 50 contributors made donations last year totalling $7.7bn, plus pledges of $2.9bn.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy editor, Stacy Palmer, said the most significant fact from the list was the amount of money coming from living donors. Palmer said: "It's a sure sign that the economy is getting better and people are getting a lot less cautious."
Some of the nation's biggest givers do not appear on the 2013 list, not because they stopped being generous, but because their donations in 2013 were counted as pledges in previous years.
Last Tuesday, Bill Nye "The Science Guy" faced off against Ken Ham of "Answers in Genesis" in a highly publicized debate around the following question:
Is creation a viable model of origins in today's modern, scientific era?
In other words, it was evolution versus creation, a debate that's surfaced in various forms since Darwin. Last week's manifestation, however, was a peculiar blend of old and new, with both parties emphasizing the importance of science for contemporary technological innovation, but Ham representing a rather old-school form of creationism — one according to which God created the world in six literal days some 6,000 years ago. (Even televangelist Pat Robertson balked, calling Ham's view "nonsense.")
The debate has provoked a variety of responses. While the overwhelming majority of those polled think it was a clear victory for Nye, others have questioned the wisdom of his consenting to such a debate in the first place. The National Center for Science Education's Ann Reid and Glenn Branch, for example, warn against formal oral debates "if the goal is to improve the public's understanding of evolution and the nature of science."
When it comes to the evidence for evolution, I don't have much to say. To quote Chris Mooney, "the case for evolution is a slam dunk." But the debate did reveal some surprising assumptions about the nature of science — on Ham's part — that have received less attention in debate postmortems, and that are worth some careful scrutiny.
It's pretty grim days for the PC industry, and the sector's next hope -- machines that run both Windows and Android at the same time -- may not be enough to save it.
The dual-operating system idea is just the latest attempt by the computer makers to juice sales, which have been on a steady decline: shipments posted their worst-ever drop last year, and on Thursday, Sony said it would exit the PC market. In the newest effort by the industry to revitalize computer sales, PCs would let users access both Android apps and Windows software with just the push of a button or the click of an icon on the screen. Users wouldn't have to reboot their PCs to switch between the operating systems. At least, that's the goal.
It may sound great on paper -- Android and Windows, the best of both worlds! -- but the reality isn't quite as attractive. Windows 8 has already been criticized as too confusing for users, and adding Android on top won't make it any simpler. While PC makers are working to eliminate the lag time when switching between operating systems, anything that's not essentially instantaneous or seamless could irritate users.
In Washington, the debate over what to do about climate change is split largely down party lines. But it hasn't always been that way.
Republican Sen. John McCain campaigned on the issue in his presidential runs. "Climate change is real," he said in 2007. "The Earth is warming, and it is the result of greenhouse gas emissions."
Climate change was on the country's mind that spring in part because deadly storms were ripping through the Midwest. The worst tornado came on the night of May 4, 2007, and struck Greensburg, Kan. It was the most intense tornado during a season that was the worst in 50 years.
The event caused one resident to run for office and turn the city green. His approach differs from that of some fellow Republicans; in fact, he's working with the White House on a climate change task force.
Bob Dixson vividly remembers the night the tornado hit Greensburg.
"We lost everything, my wife and I, as did everyone in town," Dixson tells NPR's Arun Rath. "Our home was sucked off the top of the foundation. ... We were in the basement and it took everything. What we had left was the clothes we had on our back."
Despite efforts by the Obama administration to ease shortages of critical drugs, shortfalls have persisted, forcing doctors to resort to rationing in some cases or to scramble for alternatives, a government watchdog agency said on Monday.
In recent years, drug shortages have become an all but permanent part of the American medical landscape. The most common shortages are for generic versions of sterile injectable drugs, partly because factories that make them are aging and prone to quality problems, causing temporary closings of production lines or even entire factories. The number of annual shortages — both new and continuing ones — nearly tripled from 2007 to 2012.
The analysis by the United States Government Accountability Office, released Monday, was required by a 2012 law that gave the Food and Drug Administration more power to manage shortages. The watchdog agency was charged with evaluating whether the F.D.A. had improved its response to the problem, among other things.
"Hello Reddit - I'm Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Microsoft founder. Ask me anything."
And so they did.
Fresh from helping to choose the next CEO to run the company he co-founded nearly four decades ago, Gates descended from the mountaintop to mix it up with the new media masses with his second Reddit appearance in the last year.
Even before the festivities officially got underway, Gates posted a video where he answered a question ahead of time by someone left on the Reddit board asking where he would pick up a $100 bill if he saw the money lying on the ground.
"Well, all my thoughts about money were formed at a time when $100 really was a substantial amount of money...if it's lying there and maybe it belongs to somebody and you ought to find it for them and return it to them," he said. "It'd be nice. They'd probably be fairly distraught about having dropped it. But i would pick it up and give it to the foundation because there, $100 actually buys quite a bit."
Then the conversation took a more serious turn.