FAA administrator: 3 commuter jets near DC flew too close but were never on a collision course
WASHINGTON (AP) -- None of the commuter jets that flew too close together near Washington on Tuesday was ever on course to collide head-on with the others, federal officials said Thursday.
During a news conference, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood strongly disputed media reports characterizing what happened near Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as a near-miss.
"At no point were the three aircraft on a head-to-head course. They were not on a collision course," said Michael Huerta, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.
However, the FAA said in a statement it "is investigating the incident and will take appropriate action to address the miscommunication." The National Transportation Safety Board said it, too, is reviewing what happened.
The jet problem occurred Tuesday afternoon after a miscommunication between a manager at Potomac Consolidated Terminal Radar Approach Control and two traffic management coordinators at the airport, Huerta said. The exact nature of the miscommunication was not immediately clear, but there was apparently a failure on both ends to follow standard procedure.
Katherine Jackson says she was kept from communicating while reported missing
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The mystery of Michael Jackson's mother's disappearance was clarified Thursday with the release of court papers that said she was kept from communicating with outsiders while at a resort and was unaware she had been reported missing.
Katherine Jackson declared in the documents that she learned she was the subject of a search when she accidentally heard a TV report.
Before that, she said, she was kept virtually incommunicado without access to a phone or her iPad. She said her stay at the Tucson resort was unplanned, and she went there after she was told her doctor had ordered her to rest.
Before that, she had intended to take a cross-country RV trip to see her sons perform in concerts.
"While there was a telephone in my room, the telephone was not functioning and I could not dial out," she said in the documents. "In addition, there was no picture on the television in my room."
Romney says claim he hasn't paid taxes in 10 years 'untrue,' tells Reid to 'put up or shut up'
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Put up or shut up, says Mitt Romney. Just sayin', retorts Harry Reid. For both men, it's a taxing situation.
Romney demanded Thursday that the Democratic Senate leader back up the story he's been passing around this week that an investor with Romney's old firm, Bain Capital, has told him that Romney didn't pay any taxes for 10 years.
Reid offers no evidence to substantiate the claim -- he even says he's not sure it's true -- and won't reveal who made it. For the Nevada Democrat, the claim explains why Romney is adamant about not releasing more than a year or two of his tax returns.
Romney went on conservative radio host Sean Hannity's show Thursday morning to brand the claim untrue.
"Well, it's time for Harry to put up or shut up," Romney said. "Harry's going to have to describe who it is he spoke with because of course, that's totally and completely wrong."
Annan quits as Syrian envoy, blames violence on the ground and lack of unity at the UN
BEIRUT (AP) -- Kofi Annan announced his resignation Thursday as peace envoy to Syria and issued a blistering critique of world powers, bringing to a dramatic end a frustrating six-month effort that failed to achieve even a temporary cease-fire as the country plunged into civil war.
Annan also had harsh words for the Syrian regime, saying it was clear President Bashar Assad "must leave office."
As the violence escalated on the ground, rebels used a captured tank to shell a military air base near Aleppo -- one of the first known uses of heavy weapons by the insurgents.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Annan blamed the Syrian government's intransigence, the growing militancy of Syrian rebels and a divided Security Council that failed to forcefully back his effort. Since he took on the job, Russia and China have twice used their veto power to block strong Western- and Arab-backed action against President Bashar Assad's regime.
The White House said Annan's resignation highlighted the failure of Russia and China to support action against Assad and called the regime's continued violence against its own people "disgusting."
EYES ON LONDON: Gabby lights up Olympics, Phelps extends record medal tally with yet more gold
LONDON (AP) -- Around the 2012 Olympics and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of the games to you:
IT ALL PAID OFF
Two years after Gabby Douglas left her home and family, moving halfway across the country at 14 in search of better coaching, she's claimed the biggest prize in gymnastics.
The 16-year-old from Virginia Beach, Virginia, beat Viktoria Komova on Thursday to become the third straight American to win the Olympic all-around title, and first African-American. She took the lead after the first event and never relinquished it, locking up the gold with a floor exercise that had the O2 Arena rocking.
Romney likens Obama to dog chasing its tail; president dismisses opponent's 'fairy dust' plan
GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) -- Mitt Romney promised Thursday that his economic program will create 12 million new jobs in the next four years, and likened President Barack Obama to a "dog trying to chase its tail" when it comes to strengthening the sluggish recovery.
Firing back instantly, Obama said his rival favors "trickle-down fairy dust" that has failed to fix the economy in the past, and unleashed a new television ad with a scathing summation of Romney's tax plans: "He pays less. You pay more."
The two men campaigned in battleground states hundreds of miles apart, the incumbent in Florida, his challenger in Colorado, both on a mission to convert undecided voters to their side in a race dominated by the economy and high joblessness.
Nor was there any summer lull in the television ad wars. Americans For Prosperity, an independent group that backs Romney, intends to launch a $25 million ad campaign beginning next week, according to officials familiar with the arrangements. The organization was founded by David and Charles Koch, billionaire brothers, and has spent about $15 million in swing states this year on ads attacking Obama.
For Romney, the day meant a return to domestic campaigning after a weeklong overseas trip. Aides say he intends to disclose a vice presidential pick before the Republican National Convention opens on Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla., but the former Massachusetts governor told reporters: "I've got nothing to give you" by way of information on his decision.
Double-decker Megabus crash in Illinois kills at least 1, injures more than 3 dozen others
LITCHFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- A packed double-decker Megabus slammed into an Illinois interstate bridge support pillar Thursday, hurtling screaming passengers from their seats and leaving at least one person dead and more than three dozen injured, officials said.
Aditi R. Avhad, 24, a native of India, was killed in the crash, Illinois State Police Trooper Brad Lemarr said late Thursday. Lemarr said she was headed to Columbia, Mo., but he didn't know where she was currently living or from where she was traveling. Authorities also did not know where she was seated on the bus, which was traveling between Chicago and Kansas City.
Trooper Doug Francis said 38 people were taken to hospitals for injuries from the crash, which left the bus sitting with its crumpled front end smashed up against the bridge support. Rescue crews climbed ladders to reach those trapped inside, while others tended to injuries along the side of Interstate 55.
"There was a lot of screaming and crying," said 16-year-old passenger Baysha Collins, of Minneapolis, who was traveling to St. Louis to visit relatives. "There was blood everywhere. I was just in shock."
Megabus spokeswoman Amanda Byers said the bus was at full capacity, carrying 81 passengers, when it crashed near Litchfield, about 55 miles northeast of St. Louis. It left from Chicago and was to stop in St. Louis and Columbia, Mo., before arriving in Kansas City.
US-bound Cubans pour into Panama through rugged border with Colombia
METETI, Panama (AP) -- Led by smugglers armed with knives and machetes, Mayra Reyes and 14 other Cubans sloshed through swamps and rivers and suffered hordes of mosquitoes as they struggled across the notorious Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia, the only north-south stretch of the Americas to defy road-builders.
After walking for three days, the group reached the foot of a steep, scrubby mountain. There, the smugglers peeled away and told the Cubans they would have to press ahead alone.
"I thought I was going to have a heart attack," the 32-year-old hairdresser from Havana told The Associated Press. "What the guides did was get us to the mountain, where we had to wait for nightfall while these green and black poisonous frogs got on top of us."
Hundreds of Cubans like Reyes are taking that arduous new route toward the United States, trekking across the 85 miles (135 kilometers) of steamy tropical jungle that divides Colombia and Panama, through mountains, ravines, and muddy ground teeming with poisonous reptiles, jaguars, wild boars, guerrillas and drug traffickers. And after that, they still face a journey across 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometers) and six countries to reach the United States.
Panamanian immigration authorities detained 800 Cubans near the border with Colombia from January through the first week in July, compared to 400 in all of 2011.
GOP probe cites missed red flags in government's investment in failed solar energy company
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans investigating the government's investment in a bankrupt solar panel manufacturer have concluded that the Obama administration ignored numerous red flags about the company's financial viability, leaving taxpayers on the hook for more than $500 million.
For months, Republican lawmakers have made the government's loan to California-based Solyndra Inc. the centerpiece of their criticisms of President Barack Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package. The release of the report Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee gave them another opportunity to reinforce that message.
The White House countered that the report showed that none of the accusations that Republicans had made about political interference in approving the loan turned out to be true. Democrats on the committee also released a memorandum taking issue with the findings.
"The Republican report is partisan and one-sided. It does not substantiate the primary allegation that motivated the committee's Solyndra investigation, which is that the loan guarantee decision was a form of political payoff to a campaign contributor," the Democratic memo said.
The Energy and Commerce investigation lasted 18 months and included the review of more than 300,000 pages of documents. Backers of the loan have said competition from Chinese solar-panel manufacturers was a major factor in Solyndra's failure. The report said White House Office of Management and Budget staff was aware that China's effort to penetrate the U.S. market could hurt Solyndra.
Still the one: Phelps takes out Lochte in 200 IM for 20th medal, 1st solo gold of London Games
LONDON (AP) -- Michael Phelps spent the day thinking about all the things he's doing for the final time at the pool. It turns out that included one last win over Ryan Lochte.
Phelps finally got a gold all his own at his final Olympics.
Adding to an already unprecedented medal collection, he claimed his first individual victory of the London Games and handed Lochte a double disappointment on his rival's final night in the pool Thursday.
Phelps set the tone right from the start with a dominating butterfly leg to become the first male swimmer to win the same individual event at three straight Olympics in the 200-meter individual medley. He claimed his 20th career medal -- and 16th gold -- in 1 minute, 54.27 seconds, just off his winning time in Beijing but still good enough for gold, ahead of Lochte.
When it was done, there wasn't that water-pounding celebration we've seen so many times from Phelps -- just a slight smile as he hung on the lane rope, gazing up at the stands and soaking it all in.