- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Latest: Tennessee movie theater attacker was 29-year-old local man, police say

ANTIOCH, Tenn. (AP) - The latest on reports of shots fired at a Nashville-area movie theater (all times local):

6:10 p.m.

Police now say the man who attacked moviegoers at a Nashville-area theater was a 29-year-old local man.

Earlier Wednesday, police had said the man was 51. He died in a shootout with police. Investigators say he was wielding a hatchet and gun and was carrying two backpacks, one of which had a fake device made to look like a bomb.

Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said investigators need to fingerprint the attacker and do other analyses before releasing his identity.


Obama assails critics of Iran nuclear deal, warns Congress voting against pact could spark war

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama assailed critics of his Iran nuclear deal Wednesday as “selling a fantasy” to the American people, warning Congress that blocking the accord would damage the nation’s credibility and increase the likelihood of more war in the Middle East.

Besides challenging opponents at home, Obama cast Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an isolated international opponent of the historic accord, saying, “I do not doubt his sincerity, but I believe he is wrong.”

The agreement would require Iran to dismantle most of its nuclear program for at least a decade in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions. But Netanyahu and some critics in the U.S. argue that it would not stop Iran from building a bomb.

The president’s blunt remarks, in an hour-long address at American University, were part of an intense lobbying campaign by the White House ahead of Congress’ vote next month to either approve or disapprove the international agreement. Opponents of the agreement have streamed to Capitol Hill, too, to make their case, and they have spent tens of millions of dollars on advertisements.

The stakes are high, Obama said, contending that it isn’t just Iran’s ability to build a bomb that is on the line but also “America’s credibility as the anchor of the international system.”


Sheriff: ‘Ritualistic’ killings of mother, 2 sons may be tied to recent blue moon

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) - More than a week after the gruesome deaths of an elderly Florida woman and her two adult sons - in what authorities suspect was a ritual killing - neighbors and family on Wednesday said they have many questions but few answers.

Meeks Willard, who lives in the rural, west Pensacola neighborhood where the Smith family was killed, said he is frightened and doesn’t sleep at night because of the crime.

“This is causing me a lot of stress,” said Willard, who never met the Smiths despite living on the same street for years.

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said Tuesday that authorities had identified a person of interest in the deaths of Voncile Smith, 77, Richard Smith, 49, and John Smith, 47.

All three victims were struck multiple times with a claw hammer and their throats were slit. Richard Smith was also shot in his right ear.


Malaysia’s leader says experts conclude that wing fragment is from missing Flight 370

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - A piece of a wing found washed up on Reunion Island last week is from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that vanished last year, Malaysia’s prime minister announced early Thursday, saying he hoped the news would end the “unspeakable” uncertainty of the passengers’ families.

The disappearance of the Boeing 777 jetliner 515 days ago while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, has been one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history. Officials believed it crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people aboard, but it is still unknown why the plane went down.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts has conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion Island is indeed MH370,” Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters. The French territory is thousands of miles from the area being searched for wreckage from the flight.

U.S. and French officials involved in the investigation were more cautious, stopping short of full confirmation but saying it made sense that the metal piece of the wing, known as the flaperon, came from Flight 370.

The Australian government, which leads the seabed search for wreckage west of Australia, was also less certain than Malaysia, saying in a statement that “based on high probability, it is MH370.”


Pope calls for a church of “opens doors” that welcomes divorced Catholics who remarry

NEW YORK (AP) - Pope Francis’ call Wednesday for a church of “open doors” that welcomes divorced Catholics prompted speculation over whether he was signaling support for easing the ban on Communion for couples who remarry without a church annulment.

The issue is at the center of an extraordinarily public debate among cardinals from around the world who will gather this October at the Vatican for a synod, or meeting, on the family, where treatment of such couples will be a key topic.

“He wants the church to get over a psychology that if you’re divorced and remarried that you’re a lesser Catholic,” said Phillip Thompson, executive director of the Aquinas Center of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. “But it doesn’t address the real issue of what is the path forward for Catholics who want to enter into full communion with the church.”

Under Catholic teaching, unless a marriage is annulled, or declared null and void by a church tribunal, those who remarry cannot receive Communion or other sacraments because they are essentially living in sin and committing adultery. Such annulments can take years to process - if they are granted at all - a problem that has left generations of Catholics feeling shunned by their church.

Catholics who divorce after a church marriage, but don’t remarry can receive Communion.


With critiques of Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton tries to break through Donald Trump’s summer surge

WASHINGTON (AP) - Ten Republican candidates for president in 2016 will debate Thursday for first time. Spend any time listening to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton this past week, though, and it would seem like only one really matters: Jeb Bush.

As billionaire businessman Donald Trump thunders his way to the top of the summertime polls, Clinton is instead focused on the former Florida governor as one of the most likely - and potentially threatening - Republican nominees.

Clinton repeatedly slammed Bush by name on Tuesday after he questioned spending public money on women’s health issues, a more direct attack after she slyly stung him last Friday by using the name of his super PAC and slogan of his campaign - Right to Rise - to paint him as setting back the cause of black Americans.

“People can’t rise if they can’t afford health care. They can’t rise if the minimum wage is too low to live on,” Clinton told the annual meeting of the National Urban League, as Bush waited in the wings to take his turn on stage.

“They can’t rise if their governor makes it hard for them to get a college education and you cannot seriously talk about the right to rise and support laws that deny the right to vote,” she said.


California meets drought-fueled fire season with extra crews; resources remain strong

LAKEPORT, Calif. (AP) - The firefighters come from near and far, working 24-hour shifts to snuff out an unpredictable blaze that has burned more than 100 square miles in Northern California near a major recreational lake.

They bunk in tight sleepers and eat in a big mess hall. They depart in the mornings with enormous high-calorie sack lunches of sandwiches and cookies as others come back tired, footsore and hungry to their makeshift base at the Lake County fairgrounds.

The National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho has listed the fire 110 miles north of San Francisco as the nation’s highest priority for crews and equipment. It is the largest of 23 fires statewide and takes up nearly a third of the 10,000 firefighters dispatched in California, which has become tinder box amid years of drought.

The good news is state fire officials prepared for a drought-fueled fire season and staffed up early with several hundred more firefighters than previous years, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

“We’re definitely at a medium to high level of activity but we’re not at extreme, where we are low on resources by any means,” he said. “That helps us out if there are new fires.”


GOP senator offers NRA-backed bill on guns and mental health; gun control groups disapprove

WASHINGTON (AP) - A leading Republican senator proposed a National Rifle Association-backed bill Wednesday that he said would make the federal background check system for gun buyers more effective and bolster programs for treating people with mental illness.

The measure drew criticism from groups advocating stricter controls over firearms, who said it doesn’t go far enough and singled out provisions they said would make it easier for some unstable people to obtain deadly weapons. But it was backed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which advocates for mentally ill people, and groups representing police organizations, correctional workers and social workers, which combined with NRA support could broaden its appeal.

No. 2 Senate Republican John Cornyn of Texas unveiled the legislation in the wake of last month’s mass shooting in a Louisiana movie theater by a gunman with mental problems. That and other recent firearms attacks have called attention to holes in the background check system and programs for people with psychological difficulties.

Cornyn said that while past bills have been designed to “drive a political wedge” on the issue, his was aimed at helping people with mental health issues to “hopefully pre-empt them from committing an act of violence.” The bill’s prospects are uncertain,

The bill’s background check provisions are far weaker than Senate legislation that Republicans and the NRA killed two years ago; that legislation would have required the checks for firearms bought at gun shows and online. Cornyn has an A-plus voting rating from the NRA, which has long impeded gun restrictions in Congress but has backed some efforts to make it harder for mentally ill people to purchase weapons.


Under new SEC rule, companies will have to reveal pay gap between CEOs and employees

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal regulators have approved a long-delayed rule requiring companies to reveal the pay gap between CEOs and their employees.

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted Wednesday to order most public companies to disclose the ratio between their chief executives’ annual compensation and median, or midpoint, employee pay.

The 3-2 vote, with the two Republican commissioners dissenting, culminated years of heated public debate over one of the most controversial rules the agency has put forward in recent years. The SEC received more than 280,000 comments on the issue since it floated the proposal two years ago, and lobbying by business interests against the requirement was intense.

The SEC acted under a mandate from the 2010 law that reshaped regulation after the financial crisis. Outsize pay packages - often tied to the company’s stock price -were blamed for encouraging disastrous risk-taking and short-term gain at the expense of long-term performance.

Public reporting of the gap is unlikely to result in a rush to cut executives’ pay packages or boost employee salaries. The numbers could pack a symbolic punch, though, and nudge company directors as watchdogs to push back on executives’ excess, supporters of disclosure say. The information also could be useful to shareholders casting advisory votes on executives’ pay packages, which they’ve been entitled to do since 2011.


Mexico City prosecutor says man arrested in slaying of photojournalist, 4 women at apartment

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Exiled from the coastal state where he felt threatened for his work, photojournalist Ruben Espinosa still was on edge in Mexico City.

Even in the vast metropolis, he sensed he was being watched. A man approached him in a restaurant to ask if he was the photographer who fled Veracruz, then another stranger did the same at a party, according to friends in whom he confided.

The encounters fueled the fear that had prompted Espinosa to make a pact with a friend after moving to Mexico City in June: They would regularly check in with each other via calls and texts to let the other know everything was OK.

As of 2:13 p.m. Friday, everything was. That was the last time anyone heard from Espinosa.

Later that day he was found shot in the head, his body bound and tortured. The attackers also killed his friend, Nadia Vera, and two of her roommates - a 19-year-old aspiring makeup artist and a woman believed to be from Colombia - as well as their 40-year-old housekeeper.

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