WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators investigating the Secret Service prostitution scandal said yesterday that dozens of reported episodes of misconduct by agents point to a culture of carousing in the agency and urged Director Mark Sullivan to get past his insistence that the romp in Cartagena was a one-time mistake.
The disconnect between the senators and Sullivan reappeared again and again throughout the two-hour hearing, even as the Secret Service chief for the first time apologized for the incident that tarnished the elite presidential protection force. By the end, Sullivan's job appeared secure even as new details emerged that left little doubt, senators said, that a pattern of sexual misbehavior had taken root in the agency.
"He kept saying over and over again that he basically does think this was an isolated incident and I don't think he has any basis for that conclusion," said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the senior Republican on the Homeland Security panel that heard Sullivan's first public accounting of the episode.
"For the good of the Secret Service," added Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the panel chairman, "he's got to assume that what happened in Cartagena was not an isolated incident or else it will happen again." Still, Sullivan insisted repeatedly that in his 29-year Secret Service career he had never heard anyone say that misconduct was condoned, implicitly or otherwise.
"I just do not think that this is something that is systemic within this organization," Sullivan said.
Can Wall Street can't get it right?
NEW YORK (AP) — Almost four years after the financial crisis, Wall Street still can't get it right.
Investor anger mounted Wednesday over the initial public offering of Facebook stock last week, which was fumbled by the banks that managed the deal and complicated by technical problems at the Nasdaq stock exchange.
Shareholders filed at least two lawsuits against Facebook and Morgan Stanley, the bank that shepherded the IPO, over reports that it withheld negative analyst reports about Facebook from some clients before the company went public.
It was the second stumble this month by a major Wall Street firm. JPMorgan Chase, usually revered for taming risk, has yet to contain a growing $2 billion loss in one of its trading units.
The missteps are further eroding the confidence of Main Street, or what was left of it after the financial meltdown of 2008, and reinforcing the sense that the game is rigged.
Pakistani who helped US track down Osama bin Laden convicted, sentenced to 33 years
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A doctor who helped the CIA hunt down Osama bin Laden was convicted Wednesday of conspiring against the state and sentenced to 33 years in prison, adding new strains to an already deeply troubled relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan.
U.S. officials had urged Pakistan to release the doctor, who ran a vaccination program for the CIA to collect DNA and verify the al-Qaida leader's presence at the compound in the town of Abbottabad where U.S. commandos killed him in May 2011 in a unilateral raid.
The lengthy sentence for Dr. Shakil Afridi will be taken as another sign of Pakistan's defiance of American wishes. It could give more fuel to critics in the United States that Pakistan — which has yet to arrest anyone for helping shelter bin Laden — should no longer be treated as an ally.
The verdict came days after a NATO summit in Chicago that was overshadowed by tensions between the two countries that are threatening American hopes of an orderly end to the war in Afghanistan and withdrawal of its combat troops by 2014.
Islamabad was invited in expectation it would reopen supply lines for NATO and U.S. troops to Afghanistan it has blocked for nearly six months to protest U.S. airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani troops on the Afghan border. But it did not reopen the routes, and instead repeated demands for an apology from Washington for the airstrikes.
Obama team touts positive polling on gay marriage
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's re-election campaign is beginning to express some confidence that the president's historic, yet politically risky, embrace of gay marriage may not hurt him in the November election.
In a conference call announcing efforts to get gay and lesbian voters engaged in the Obama campaign, officials said poll numbers on same-sex marriage were increasingly tilting in their favor.
"A lot of recent polls show that support for gay marriage across the country is growing," said Clo Ewing, an Obama campaign spokeswoman.
That includes a Washington Post-ABC News poll out Wednesday showing 53 percent of Americans say gay marriage should be a legal, a new high for the poll. Thirty-nine percent, a new low, say gay marriage should be illegal.
A separate poll showed that just 7 percent of registered voters said Obama's public support for gay marriage raised concerns about supporting him. For 31 percent of voters, the president's announcement reinforced their support of him and for 62 percent of voters, it did not make a difference, according to the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll.
States looking more to Interstate tolls
WASHINGTON (AP) — Driving onto an Interstate highway? Crossing a bridge on the way into work? Taking a tunnel under a river or bay? Get ready to pay.
With Congress unwilling to contemplate an increase in the federal gas tax, motorists are likely to be paying ever more tolls as the government searches for ways to repair and expand the nation's congested highways.
Tolling is less efficient and sometimes can seem less fair than the main alternative, gasoline taxes. It can increase traffic on side roads as motorists seek to evade paying. Some tolling authorities — often quasi-governmental agencies operating outside the public eye — have been plagued by mismanagement. And some public-private partnerships to build toll roads have drowned in debt because of too-rosy revenue predictions.
Tolls are hardly a perfect solution. But to many states and communities, they're the best option available.
"It's very hard in this environment for states to add capacity without charging a toll because they can't afford to do it," said Joshua Schank, president of the Eno Center for Transportation, a Washington think tank. "They're barely able to maintain what they've got, and there is an urgent need for capacity."
Smithsonian's National Zoo is hand-raising 2 cheetah cubs
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two cheetah cubs have a new home at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and are being raised by human hands after a risky birth last month at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia.
The zoo offered a first look at the now healthy cubs Wednesday and hopes to place them on view to the public in the cheetah yard by the end of the summer.
Cheetahs are the fastest animals on land, but scientists said every surviving cub is critical to sustaining the species, which is threatened with extinction in the wild. These cubs are genetically valuable because their mother and father were first-time parents.
When the cubs' mother, 5-year-old Ally, gave birth to the first cub in late April, though, problems quickly developed. Ally abandoned her first cub and left him in the cold on a snowy day. Then her labor stopped, even though she had three more cubs waiting to be born.
Zoo veterinarians performed a "rare and risky" emergency cesarean section and saved one more cub, along with the cheetah mother. Two other cubs died.
Google creates tribute to creator Bob Moog
NEW YORK (AP) — Bob Moog's synthesizer helped change the sound of modern music. On what would have been his 78th birthday, Google is paying tribute to the man with a virtual version of his famous Moog on their homepage — and it's completely playable.
The Moog doodle, a replica of the Minimoog Model D, may not be a highly complex synthesizer but it explores a lot of the realms of synthesis — the sculpting of sound mastered by a synthesizer.
"To be able to put all those capabilities in the hands of hundreds of millions of people is just astounding," said Moog's daughter Michelle Moog-Koussa, who serves as executive director of the Bob Moog Foundation. "I think he would be humbled and awed."
In 45 years, the Moog synthesizer has gone from a behemoth instrument that took several techs to work and several people to carry, to one you can download on your iPhone.
Moog's first modular synthesizers in the mid- to late-'60s could easily weigh between 70 and 100 pounds. Keith Emerson's monster Moog, for example, is more than 200 pounds. Moog's early synths were high-maintenance and finicky. Sometimes they wouldn't work in the heat, other times the oscillators would drift.
Consultants recommend turning Astrodome into multi-purpose facility
HOUSTON (AP) — A team of consultants is recommending that the Astrodome be turned into a multi-purpose facility that could host sporting events and massive exhibitions, while also preserving the iconic structure's outer shell.
The $270 million option was one of four considered by consultants led by Dallas-based CSL. The other options included leaving the vacant stadium alone, demolishing it and building an outdoor plaza, or building a massive "renaissance" complex.
In a presentation to Harris County's sports and convention wing, the consultants said the multipurpose option could turn Houston into a popular destination for special events and national trade shows.
The recommendation now goes to the Harris County commissioners, who can take up the matter at their next capital projects meeting in June.