Obama celebrates big jobless drop, but Romney counters that it's still not 'a real recovery'
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) -- Mitt Romney was still celebrating his widely praised debate performance when the campaign lurched in a different direction.
Unemployment dropped last month to the lowest level since 2009, and suddenly it was President Barack Obama's turn to smile.
In a race dominated by the weak economy, Obama said Friday the creation of 114,000 jobs in September, coupled with a drop in unemployment to 7.8 percent, was "a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now." Jabbing at his rival's plans, he declared, "We've made too much progress to return to the policies that caused this crisis in the first place."
But Romney saw little to like in the day's new government numbers.
"This is not what a real recovery looks like," the former Massachusetts governor and businessman said, an analysis echoed by other Republicans throughout the day. "We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we've lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office," Romney added.
US suspects some Afghan 'insider' attacks are linked to Haqqani network with ties to al-Qaida
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The Haqqani insurgent network, based in Pakistan and with ties to al-Qaida, is suspected of being a driving force behind a significant number of the "insider" attacks by Afghan forces that have killed or wounded more than 130 U.S. and allied troops this year, American officials said Friday.
Until now, officials had said the attacks seemed to stem either from personal grievances against the allies or from Taliban infiltration. The Taliban has publicly claimed to be orchestrating the campaign to subvert the U.S.-Afghan alliance.
New data provided to The Associated Press this week also reveal that in addition to 35 U.S. and allied troops killed in insider attacks last year, 61 were wounded. Those included 19 in a single attack in the eastern province of Laghman on April 16, 2011, in which six American servicemen were killed. Thus far in 2012 there have been 53 killed and at least 80 wounded, the figures showed.
Haqqani involvement in the plotting would add a new dimension to that group's insurgent activity, which has been marked largely by spectacular attacks against targets inside Kabul.
Haqqani leaders have pledged allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, but the group largely operates independently. The two groups have a shared interest in evicting foreign forces.
Conspiracy theorists howl after unemployment drops sharply a month before Election Day
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sasquatch might as well have traipsed across the White House lawn Friday with a lost Warren Commission file on his way to the studio where NASA staged the moon landing.
Conspiracy theorists came out in force after the government reported a sudden drop in the U.S. unemployment rate one month before Election Day. Their message: The Obama administration would do anything to ensure a November victory, including manipulating unemployment data.
The conspiracy was widely rejected. Officials at the Labor Department said the jobs figures are calculated by highly trained government employees without any political interference. Democrats and even some Republicans said they also found the charges implausible.
Yet that didn't stop the chatter. The allegations were a measure of how politicized the monthly unemployment report has become near the end of a campaign that has focused on the economy and jobs.
The conspiracy erupted after former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, a Republican, tweeted his skepticism five minutes after the Labor Department announced that the unemployment rate had fallen to 7.8 percent in September from 8.1 percent the month before.
Ending lengthy saga, Abu Hamza, other terror suspects extradited to US after UK ruling
LONDON (AP) -- Radical preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri and four other terror suspects who fought for years to avoid facing charges in the United States lost their grounds for appeal and were flown to the U.S. from Britain late Friday, officials said.
The U.S. Embassy said it was pleased with the ruling earlier Friday by Britain's High Court, and Scotland Yard said the five departed from an air force base in eastern England just before midnight on two jets bound for the U.S.
Judges John Thomas and Duncan Ouseley rejected last-ditch applications by al-Masri, Khaled al-Fawwaz, Babar Ahmad, Adel Abdul Bary and Syed Talha Ahsan, who had been battling extradition for between eight and 14 years.
Thomas said there were no grounds for any further delay, noting that it was "in the interest of justice that those accused of very serious crimes, as each of these claimants is in these proceedings, are tried as quickly as possible as is consistent with the interests of justice."
"It follows that their extradition to the United States of America may proceed immediately," the judge said.
FBI says friendly fire likely to blame in border agent shootings along Arizona-Mexico border
PHOENIX (AP) -- A preliminary investigation has found friendly fire likely was to blame in a shooting that killed one federal agent and wounded another along the Arizona-Mexico border, the FBI said Friday, shaking up the probe into an incident that reignited the political debate over border security.
"There are strong preliminary indications that the death of United States Border Patrol Agent Nicholas J. Ivie and the injury to a second agent was the result of an accidental shooting incident involving only the agents," FBI Special Agent in Charge James L. Turgal Jr. said in a statement.
Turgal didn't elaborate on the agency's conclusions but said the FBI is using "all necessary investigative, forensic and analytical resources" as it investigates the Tuesday shooting about five miles north of the border near Bisbee.
Ivie was killed after he and two other agents responded to an alarm triggered by a sensor aimed at detecting smugglers and others entering the U.S. illegally.
One of the other agents was shot in the ankle and buttocks, but was released from the hospital after surgery. The third agent was uninjured.
Steroid shots are highly common treatment for back pain; docs say they're usually very safe
CHICAGO (AP) -- Millions of people get steroid shots in their backs to relieve pain. Now they are probably wondering if it's safe.
In 23 states, hundreds, possibly thousands, of back-pain patients are being warned to watch for symptoms of meningitis because of a custom-mixed steroid solution that may have been contaminated with fungus. Five people have died and more than 40 others have fallen ill.
Doctors who do these injections say they are extremely safe when done correctly with sterile drugs. And many doctors stick to medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration instead of relying on generally less-regulated "compounding pharmacies" like the Massachusetts company implicated in the outbreak.
"If I was a patient, I would definitely be concerned," said Dr. Michael Schafer, an orthopedic specialist at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
He said Northwestern gets steroids from federally regulated pharmaceutical companies. And in almost 40 years of experience, he has never had a patient develop an infection from these shots.
Mexican expert: Mayan ball court at Chichen Itza was celestial observatory to mark solstices
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Mexican archaeologists say they have determined that the ancient Mayas built watchtower-style structures atop the ceremonial ball court at the temples of Chichen Itza to observe the equinoxes and solstices, and they said Friday that the discovery adds to understanding of the many layers of ritual significance that the ball game had for the culture.
The structures sit atop the low walls of the court, where the Mayas played a game that consisted, as far as experts can tell, of knocking a heavy, latex ball with their elbows, knees or hips, through a stone ring set in the walls.
The bases of the structures -- essentially, look-out boxes set atop the walls, each one with a small slit running through it --had been detected before, but archaeologist hadn't been sure what they were used for. Since the ball court was built around 864 A.D., the boxes and the stairs leading to them had crumbled.
The government's National Institute of Anthropology and History announced Thursday that the boxes had been 90-percent reconstructed, based on the stone footings that remained. Late last year and early this year, a team led by archaeologist Jose Huchim confirmed that the sun shone through the slit-like openings when the setting sun touches the horizon at the winter solstice.
The sun's rays also formed a diagonal pattern at the equinox in the slit-like openings, which are about tall enough to stand up in.
Well-preserved mammoth carcass found in the Siberian permafrost, Russian scientist says
MOSCOW (AP) -- A teenage mammoth that once roamed the Siberian tundra in search of fodder and females might have been killed by an Ice Age man on a summer day tens of thousands of years ago, a Russian scientist said Friday.
Prof. Alexei Tikhonov of the Zoology Institute in St. Petersburg announced the finding of the mammoth, which was excavated from the Siberian permafrost in late September near the Sopochnaya Karga cape, 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) northeast of Moscow.
The 16-year-old mammoth has been named Jenya, after the 11-year-old Russian boy who found the animal's limbs sticking out of the frozen mud. The mammoth was 2 meters (6 feet 6 inches) tall and weighed 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds).
"He was pretty small for his age," Tikhonov told The Associated Press.
But what killed Jenya was not his size but a missing left tusk that made him unfit for fights with other mammoths or human hunters who were settling the Siberian marshes and swamps some 20,000-30,000 years ago, Tikhonov said.
Refinery problems keep gas prices surging in California while rest of US gets some relief
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- California gas prices continued surging Friday, adding another 17 cents per gallon on average, and the increases are expected to continue for at least several more days, ensuring long lines and short tempers at pumps around the state.
A week of soaring costs has led some stations to close and others to charge record prices -- in some places $5 or more -- as California leapfrogged Hawaii as the state with the most expensive fuel. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded across California was nearly $4.49 on Friday, 32 cents more than a week ago and the highest statewide average in the nation, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge report.
The national average is about $3.79 a gallon, the highest ever for this time of year. However, gas prices in many other states have started decreasing, which is typical for October.
Rebecca Olson, 43, of Irvine, drove to a Costco in Tustin hoping to find lower prices than the $4.65 in her neighborhood, but the pumps were closed.
The part-time preschool teacher said her husband already spends $500 a month on gas, in part because he commutes nearly 100 miles a day to a new sales job after being unemployed for a year.
Wild, indeed: Cardinals send Braves' Jones into retirement with disputed 6-3 playoff win
ATLANTA (AP) -- Talk about a wild card.
This one was just plain wild.
Chipper Jones played his final game. The Atlanta fans turned Turner Field into a trash heap after a disputed infield fly. And the St. Louis Cardinals did what they always seem to do in October.
Celebrated another postseason triumph.
Matt Holliday homered and the Cardinals rallied from an early deficit, taking advantage of three Atlanta throwing errors -- the most crucial of them by the retiring Jones -- to beat the Braves 6-3 in a winner-take-all wild-card playoff Friday.