- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Secret Service chief quits due to White House security lapses, eroding congressional support

WASHINGTON (AP) - Secret Service Director Julia Pierson abruptly resigned Wednesday in the face of multiple revelations of security breaches, bumbling in her agency and rapidly eroding confidence that the president and his family were being kept safe.

President Barack Obama “concluded new leadership of that agency was required,” said spokesman Josh Earnest.

High-ranking lawmakers from both parties had urged her to step down after her poorly received testimony to Congress a day earlier - and revelation of yet another security problem: Obama had shared an elevator in Atlanta last month with an armed guard who was not authorized to be around him.

That appeared to be the last straw that crumbled trust in her leadership in the White House. Earnest said Obama and his staff did not learn about that breach until just before it was made public in news reports Tuesday.

“Today Julia Pierson, the director of the United States Secret Service, offered her resignation, and I accepted it,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement. He announced that Joseph Clancy, retired head of the agency’s Presidential Protective Division, would come out of retirement to lead the Secret Service temporarily.

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Passenger who brought Ebola to US was sent home from ER, despite telling nurse about travels

DALLAS (AP) - The airline passenger who brought Ebola into the U.S. initially went to a Dallas emergency room last week but was sent home, despite telling a nurse that he had been in disease-ravaged West Africa, the hospital said Wednesday in a disclosure that showed how easily an infection could be missed.

The decision by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to release the patient, who had recently arrived from Liberia, could have put others at risk of exposure to Ebola before the man went back to the ER a couple of days later, when his condition worsened.

A day after the diagnosis was confirmed, a nine-member team of federal health officials was tracking anyone who had close contact with him after he fell ill on Sept. 24. The group of 12 to 18 people included three members of the ambulance crew that took the man to the hospital and a handful of schoolchildren.

They will be checked every day for 21 days, the disease’s incubation period.

“That’s how we’re going to break the chain of transmission, and that’s where our focus has to be,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Associated Press Wednesday.

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10 Things to Know for Thursday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:

1. SECRET SERVICE CHIEF STEPS DOWN

Lawmakers from both parties had called for Julia Pierson to quit following revelations of bumbling in her agency.

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US sharply criticizes new Israeli construction project following Obama, Netanyahu meeting

WASHINGTON (AP) - In a striking public rebuke, the Obama administration warned Israel on Wednesday that plans for a controversial new housing project in east Jerusalem would distance Israel from “even its closest allies” and raise questions about its commitment to seeking peace with Palestinians.

The harsh criticism came just hours after President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House. Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said the president privately raised his concerns with Netanyahu though the two leaders made no mention of the matter in their public comments to reporters.

“This development will only draw condemnation from the international community,” Earnest said. “It also would call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”

Netanyahu pushed back against the criticism, according to reporters traveling with him Wednesday, saying that people should have all of the information before making such statements. He also said that while Obama did raise the issue of settlements in their meeting, the discussion did not focus on specific cases.

An Israeli official confirmed the accuracy of Netanyahu’s comments to his traveling press corps. The official would discuss the matter only on condition of anonymity.

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Pro-democracy protesters vow to occupy government buildings if Hong Kong leader doesn’t quit

HONG KONG (AP) - Raising the stakes in their standoff with the authorities, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters threatened to occupy key government buildings unless the territory’s top official resigns by the end of the day Thursday.

The Chinese government, meanwhile, appeared to be losing patience. An editorial solemnly read Wednesday on state TV said all Hong Kong residents should support authorities in their efforts to “deploy police enforcement decisively” and “restore the social order in Hong Kong as soon as possible.”

And the Communist Party-run People’s Daily warned of “unimaginable consequences” if the protests persist.

In the biggest challenge to Beijing’s authority since China took control of the former British colony in 1997, thousands of demonstrators have clogged the streets of the Asian financial center since Friday, demanding freer elections in Hong Kong.

Storming government buildings would risk inviting another clash with police like the one over the weekend. It also would put pressure on the Chinese government, which has backed Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s attempts to end the protests but has not openly intervened.

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AP-GfK Poll: As early voters begin casting ballots, economic concerns top those about terror

WASHINGTON (AP) - It’s not Obamacare or climate change. It’s not yet terrorism or fear of the Islamic State group. Those issues are on the minds of voters as they begin casting ballots in this year’s midterm elections, but nothing matters to American voters as much the economy.

In a new Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday, 9 in 10 of those most likely to go to the polls or mail in a ballot in this year’s midterm elections call the economy an extremely or very important issue.

“We need jobs,” said Christine Kamischke, 45, of rural northern Michigan. She works in a large retail store and her husband was recently laid off from his job at an Air Force base near their home. Wednesday was his first day without work. The couple has five children.

Kamischke said the economy is her top concern, and she’s focused on national security only if it helps get her husband’s job back.

The poll found that concerns about the spate of foreign policy challenges facing the U.S. have grown since July, with 6 in 10 Americans now calling the U.S. role in world affairs an important issue, up from 51 percent in July.

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Iraqi Kurds fighting Islamic State say they have yet to receive weapons pledged by US, allies

MAHMOUDIYAH, Iraq (AP) - The exhausted Kurdish fighters leaned against a pair of antiquated green cannons on a hill overlooking this northern Iraqi village, the ground around them littered with shrapnel from fierce battles with Islamic State militants.

One of them, Moustafa Saleh, tapped the cannon with his mud-caked boots. “Russian-made,” he said, with a smirk. “My grandfather used the same one.”

Iraqi Kurdish fighters on the front lines of battle say they have yet to receive the heavy weapons and training pledged by the United States and nearly a dozen other countries to help them push back the Sunni militants.

U.S.-led airstrikes have forced the militants to retreat or go into hiding in towns and villages across northern Iraq, paving the way for ground forces to retake territory seized by the militant group in its lightening advance since June across western and northern Iraq.

But without more sophisticated weaponry, the Kurdish fighters, known as peshmerga, have had to rely on aging arms like the Soviet-era cannons, a centerpiece of the offensive Tuesday to retake Mahmoudiyah and the nearby strategic towns of Rabia and Zumar.

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KY ad war: McConnell hits Grimes for taking public salary while campaigning; but he does, too

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell is criticizing his Democratic opponent for drawing her state paycheck while away from work to campaign. Left unsaid in the new TV ad is that McConnell appears to be taking his government salary while campaigning, too.

The ad was among those fired in a new salvo this week in one of the nation’s fiercest - and most expensive - races for U.S. Senate. It’s a contest Republicans are counting on as they reach for the six seats they need to take control of the chamber and boost McConnell to majority leader.

For the first time, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this week began spending money to support their nominee, Alison Lundergan Grimes, in the purchase of $1 million worth of ads targeting McConnell. A pro-McConnell super-PAC, one piece of an aggressive finance effort, countered Wednesday with its own $1 million ad buy.

Most of McConnells’ ads relentlessly try to tie Grimes to President Barack Obama, who is deeply unpopular in Kentucky on issues such as energy, health care and immigration.

But an ad titled “Absences” took a different approach. In it, an announcer claims that Grimes, Kentucky’s full-time secretary of state, is campaigning on the taxpayer dime.

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Q&A;: What are students in Colorado protesting and how did the fight over history class begin?

DENVER (AP) - A fight in Colorado over how United States’ history is taught has pitted the new conservative majority on a suburban Denver school board against students and teachers who accuse the board of censorship.

The students and teachers are protesting possible changes to the new Advanced Placement history course. Hundreds have turned out to demonstrate, holding signs saying “There is nothing more patriotic than protest” and “Teach us the truth.”

School board members say they want to make sure the history course, accused of having an anti-American bias by some conservatives, is balanced. They say students are being used as pawns by teachers, who are upset about a new merit pay system.

Here’s a look at the issue that has galvanized Colorado’s second-largest school district:

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AP PHOTOS: Cavs fans welcome back LeBron James, see improved squad as team holds scrimmage

CLEVELAND (AP) - They waited in line to see him, and when LeBron James ran onto the new court inside Quicken Loans Arena for the first time in four years wearing the Cavaliers’ wine and gold colors, Cleveland fans welcomed him back with a thunderous roar they’ve been waiting to unleash.

James has returned to where he began his NBA career, focused on leading the Cavs to the city’s first pro sports championship since 1964.

Nearly 17,000 fans showed up to watch the Cavaliers hold their annual scrimmage, a glorified practice that provided Cleveland with its first look at a team transformed this summer by the return of James and a trade for All-Star forward Kevin Love. James scored 13 points, Kyrie Irving had 10 and Kevin Love nine.

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