US abandons Pentagon's failed rebel-building effort in Syria 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 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 Republicans see savior in Paul Ryan 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 wave of stabbing attacks 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 FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - An overnight brawl between two groups of students escalated into gun 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 Coconino County Attorney Ammon Barker said.
"Lucky one" in Oregon shooting speaks about massacre SEATTLE (AP) - The 18-year-old college student singled out by the shooter as the "lucky one" to survive and deliver a package to law enforcement spoke for the first time Friday about the massacre in Roseburg, Oregon. In a written statement that was the most detailed account thus far of the Oct. 1 shooting, Mathew Downing said that when Christopher Harper-Mercer entered the Umpqua Community College classroom, Downing's ears were ringing from shots already fired, and he thought what was happening "couldn't be real." He said the first thing the shooter did was put his backpack on the front desk and pull out an envelope, saying: "There is a flash drive in this and whoever survives this should give it to the police." Downing's account of what came next coincides with relatives of survivors who previously reported that Harper-Mercer looked at Downing and said, "Hey kid with the glasses, you are the lucky one.
Strong emotions as Obama visits grieving Oregon town ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) - Gun-rights activists and others gave voice to strong emotions on Friday when President Barack Obama came to meet privately with grieving families whose loved ones were killed on a college campus in Roseburg, Oregon. Many residents were angry over the call for more gun restrictions the president made soon after last week's shooting. However, there were also Obama supporters among the people waiting behind a security fence near the airport to catch a glimpse of the president. They included two men on bicycles - Phil Benedetti and John Poole. "I want to support our president," said Benedetti, a Roseburg physician.
Farmers look at devastating losses as flood rolls 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 boosts struggling Tunisian democracy 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.
North Korea readies massive anniversary celebration PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) - North Korea is holding what is expected to be one of its biggest celebrations ever Saturday for the 70th anniversary of its ruling party's creation, an attention-getting event that is the government's way of showing the world and its own people the Kim dynasty - now in its third generation - is firmly in control and its military a power to be reckoned with. As the clock struck midnight Friday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un marked the anniversary by paying respect to both his late father and grandfather at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA.