Delta passenger who found needle in sandwich thought it was a toothpick; investigation begins
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Jim Tonjes was high above North America when he bit into a hot turkey sandwich aboard a Delta Air Lines flight and felt a sudden jab in his mouth.
Glancing down, he noticed what looked like a sewing needle in the food. Another passenger on the plane reported the same thing.
At first, he thought a toothpick meant to hold the sandwich together had punctured the roof of his mouth. When he pulled it out, "it was a straight needle, about one inch long, with sharp points on both ends."
Now U.S. and European authorities are trying to determine how the needles got into meals served on at least four Delta flights from Amsterdam to the U.S. and why anyone would place them there.
"We are keeping all options open because at this moment, we have no idea why somebody or something put needles inside the sandwiches," said Robert van Kapel, a spokesman for Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.
Syria uses helicopters to battle rebels in Damascus as clashes spread
BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian government forces attacked rebels with helicopter gunships in the heart of Damascus on Tuesday, escalating a campaign to crush their opponents as clashes spread to new areas, illustrating the rebels' growing reach.
Cracks of gunfire and explosions echoed inside the capital for a third day, including a firefight near the country's parliament, in an unprecedented challenge to government rule in President Bashar Assad's seat of power.
Neighboring Iraq called on its citizens living in Syria to return home, as the fighting overshadowed another round of diplomatic maneuvering to end the civil war, with special envoy Kofi Annan in Moscow in an attempt to rescue his faltering peace plan.
Plumes of gray smoke billowed over the Damascus skyline and helicopter gunships strafed the area, activists said -- a sign the regime is growing desperate to push the rebels away from the heavily-guarded capital.
Terrified families fled the city or said they were prepared to leave at a moment's notice. Residents said they were packing "getaway bags" in case they had to run for their lives.
Romney says Obama wants Americans to be 'ashamed of success'; Democrats press for tax returns
IRWIN, Pa. (AP) -- A fiery Mitt Romney on Tuesday accused President Barack Obama of believing the government is more vital to a thriving economy than the nation's workers and dreamers, scrambling to get back on message by declaring of Obama, "I'm convinced he wants Americans to be ashamed of success."
The new Romney approach came as Democrats pressed for the release of more of Romney's tax returns and hounded the Republican candidate over discrepancies in when he left his private equity firm. The conservative magazine National Review urged Romney to release more of his tax records.
Obama has been trying to keep Romney focused on matters other than the sluggish economy, even releasing a single-shot TV ad Tuesday that suggests Romney gamed the system so well that he may not have paid any taxes at all for years.
As the campaign's tenor grew combative, Romney seized on comments Obama uttered while campaigning in Virginia last week. The president, making a point about the supportive role government plays in building the nation, said in part: "Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
Obama later added: "The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."
Penn State president: We'll respond to NCAA demand over Sandusky sex abuse scandal within days
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Penn State said Tuesday it will respond within days to the NCAA's demand for information as the governing body decides whether the university should face penalties -- including a possible shutdown of its storied football program -- in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson said he doesn't want to "jump to conclusions" about possible sanctions after the head of the NCAA declared the so-called death penalty has not been ruled out.
The NCAA is investigating whether Penn State lost "institutional control" over its athletic program and violated ethics rules. The probe had been on hold for eight months while former FBI Director Louis Freeh conducted an investigation on behalf of the school's board of trustees. Freeh's 267-page report, released last week, asserted that late football coach Joe Paterno and three top officials buried allegations against Sandusky, his retired defensive coordinator, more than a decade ago to protect the university's image.
Sandusky was convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. He awaits sentencing.
Penn State, with the results of its own investigation in hand, can turn its attention to the NCAA, Erickson said.
FDA approves Vivus' anti-obesity pill associated with significant weight loss in patients
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved a new weight loss drug from Vivus Inc. that many doctors consider the most effective therapy in a new generation of anti-obesity pills designed to help patients safely shed pounds.
The agency cleared the pill Qsymia for adults who are obese or overweight and have at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol.
Patients taking Qsymia for a year lost 6.7 percent of their body weight in one study and 8.9 percent in another study, the FDA said. That was more than two other weight loss pill recently reviewed by the FDA.
Despite its impressive performance in clinical trials, Qsymia is not exactly a scientific breakthrough, and its development underscores the slow pace of research for obesity treatments.
The drug is actually a combination of two older drugs that have long been known to help with weight loss: phentermine and topirimate.
The CEO is pregnant: Yahoo's new chief reignites the can-we-have-it-all debate, with a twist
NEW YORK (AP) -- "Another piece of good news today," tweeted the expectant mom, announcing to her online followers that she and her husband are awaiting a baby boy.
But this wasn't just any excited mom-to-be. This was 37-year-old Marissa Mayer, the newly named CEO of Yahoo -- obviously a huge achievement for anyone, but especially for a woman in the male-dominated tech industry. And she was about six months pregnant, to boot.
Exciting news -- especially for Mayer and her husband, of course -- but did it mean something for the rest of us, too? Was it a watershed moment in the perennial debate over whether women can "have it all," with the pendulum swinging happily in the positive direction?
Or was it, as some claimed in the inevitable back-and-forth on Twitter, actually a development that would increase pressure on other working moms, who might not have nearly the resources that Mayer does, in terms of wealth, power, talent and flexibility on the job?
Or was it even sexist to raise the question at all? Would anyone be saying anything if the new Yahoo CEO were an expectant father? No, went a frequent online thread: No one would even pay attention to that.
Opponents of Arizona immigration law seek to block enforcement of law's most contentious part
PHOENIX (AP) -- Opponents of Arizona's hardline immigration enforcement law launched a new effort Tuesday aimed at thwarting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that will allow police to enforce the so-called "show me your papers" provision.
A coalition of civil rights groups, religious leaders and business organizations filed a new request seeking a court order that would prevent authorities from enforcing a rule that requires police to check the immigration status of people they stop for other reasons.
The groups are asking U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to block enforcement of the requirement before it takes effect, arguing that Latinos in Arizona would face systematic racial profiling and unreasonably long detentions under the contentious section of the 2010 law.
In their 65-page filing, the coalition claims Arizona's immigration law "is pre-empted by federal law and violates the Fourth Amendment" and could "undermine trust between the police and community members, for whom a routine encounter with law enforcement will become a lengthy detention."
They also say that immigration patrols in recent years by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- the Arizona lawman known for his rigid stance against illegal immigration -- demonstrate that the law's requirement will disproportionately affect Latinos. Though the requirement hasn't taken effect, Arpaio said his officers have inquired about people's immigration status in the past.
Accused Alabama bar gunman charged in earlier shooting at home, also suspected in arsons
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- A gunman stood outside of a crowded downtown bar and opened fire from two different positions early Tuesday, sending patrons running or crawling for cover in a chaotic and bloody scene. At least 17 people were hurt as bullets ricocheted and glass shards and brick chunks fell around the nightclub.
Nathan Van Wilkins, 44, surrendered about 10 hours after the 12:30 a.m. shooting near the University of Alabama campus, police said. The rampage started a couple of miles away about 45 minutes earlier, police said, when Wilkins knocked on the door to a home and waited for a person to answer it. He then started firing, wounding the person.
Wilkins was also suspected of setting three fires to equipment or property owned by his former employer, an oil and gas company.
Police were not sure of a motive. They were investigating whether the shootings came from a dispute between rival motorcycle gangs.
There were signs Wilkins' life was unraveling.
Minnesota court upholds conviction of former nurse who encouraged 2 to commit suicide online
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld the convictions of a former nurse who hunted for suicidal people in online chat rooms and encouraged two to kill themselves, saying his actions were not protected speech.
William Melchert-Dinkel, 49, of Faribault, was convicted in 2011 of two counts of aiding suicide. He acknowledged that what he did was morally wrong but argued that he merely exercised his right to free speech. The appeals court disagreed.
"We are confident that the Constitution does not immunize Melchert-Dinkel's morbid, predatory behavior simply because it appears in the form of written words," the justices' 31-page decision said.
Melchert-Dinkel's attorney, Terry Watkins, said that while his client's actions are unsavory, he still believes they are protected by the First Amendment. He plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
"We never saw this as a two inning game," he said. "These are still not cut and dry issues."
Lawn-chair balloonists recount harrowing weekend flight over Central Oregon
Two men flying matching lawn chairs suspended by helium-filled party balloons over Central Oregon last weekend said Tuesday they were floating along peacefully at 14,000 feet when thunderstorms grabbed control of their homemade craft like a giant hand.
"It was so nice, so beautiful, so peaceful," for the first three hours of the flight, said Iraqi adventurer Fareed Lafta, who joined lawn chair ballooning veteran Kent Couch in an attempt to fly from Couch's gas station in Bend, Ore., to Montana as a warm-up for a future flight over Iraq. "I remember I can hear the cow when they moo, the dogs. Everything was so peaceful and so nice.
"Then we were in this thunderstorm."
Couch said it was like some giant hand grabbed hold of their craft.
"It felt like a wind just raced up and grabbed the balloons and just squeezed them," said Couch. "Ten of them popped at one time. It sounded like a string of firecrackers being let off. I would say that's probably where we felt threatened."