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Associated Press

Posted on September 28, 2013 at 11:00 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 28 at 11:00 PM

BUDGET BATTLE-VETO THREAT

UPDATE: White House: Obama will veto House shutdown bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says President Barack Obama would veto House Republican legislation that would avert a partial government shutdown but delay much his health care overhaul for a year and cancel a tax on medical devices which helps finance it.

The House is debating the bill tonight

The Democratic-run Senate has approved legislation preventing the shutdown but leaving the health care overhaul alone. That 2010 law has been Obama's proudest domestic achievement.

The White House says the House bill, which it calls reckless and irresponsible, would advance a narrow ideological agenda and threaten the economy. It says the bill pushes the government toward a shutdown.

HAGEL

Hagel calls govt shutdown threat 'shortsighted'

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is criticizing Congress as "astoundingly irresponsible," and says that using threats to shut down the government to satisfy a political whim is dangerously shortsighted.

Hagel oversees as much as half of the government civilians who would be furloughed next week if Congress fails to agree on a short-term spending plan to keep the government running. Roughly 400,000 Defense Department civilians could face furloughs.

The defense secretary tells reporters that the impasse threatens to delay paychecks to troops serving in Afghanistan. He also warns that such actions will lead to the United States of America becoming a country that's "ungovernable."

Hagel made the comments Saturday while flying to South Korea for meetings with top defense and diplomatic leaders from South Korea and Japan.

NSA SURVEILLANCE-SOCIAL CONNECTIONS

Report: NSA maps out a person's social connections

WASHINGTON (AP) — The New York Times is reporting that for almost three years the National Security Agency has been tapping the data it collects to map out some Americans' social connections.

The newspaper reports that tracking those social connections allows the government to identify some Americans' associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information.

The Times cites documents provided by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden.

In a story posted Saturday on its website, the Times reports that the NSA began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 after officials at the spy agency lifted restrictions on the practice. The paper says the purpose has been to examine some Americans' networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes.

SYRIA-FOREIGN MINISTER

Syria's FM: No transition plan without Assad

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Syria's foreign minister says his government will not accept any transition peace plan that excludes President Bashar Assad.

The foreign minister spoke today on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, a day after the Security Council approved a resolution that obliges Syria's government to comply with an international plan to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal. The resolution also endorsed the outcome of the Geneva conference between the government and the opposition in June 2012, which called for the establishment of a transitional government with full executive powers.

The Syrian opposition, which has been embroiled in a bloody conflict with Assad's forces for two and a half years, has repeatedly said it will not take part in any transition government that includes the president.

The latest statement from the foreign minister could mean that efforts to organize a second meeting of the opposition and the government later this year in Geneva may fail.

SYRIA

Syria vows to abide by UN resolution

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's prime minister says Damascus will fully cooperate with U.N. inspectors charged with destroying the country's chemical weapons stockpile.

Wael al-Halqi's comments Saturday come a day after the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to purge Syria of its chemical weapons program.

Al-Halqi said in an interview with Lebanon's Al Manar TV that Syria "welcomed the resolution" and "will fulfill its international duties." He also said the government "will facilitate the work of the inspectors."

The U.N. resolution passed on Friday allows the start of a mission to rid Syria's regime of its estimated 1,000-ton chemical arsenal by mid-2014. It also calls for consequences if Syria fails to comply, but those will depend on the council passing another resolution in the event of non-compliance.

UN-IRAQ

Iraqi minister doubts new civil war on horizon

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iraq's foreign minister says he doubts the escalating violence in the country will lead to "an all-out sectarian or civil war."

Hoshyar Zebari gave several reasons in an interview Saturday with The Associated Press: the Shiite, Sunni and other communities "know their limits;" the violence is limited mainly to Baghdad and its suburbs; and Sunni and Shiite religious leaders have edicts against killing each other's followers.

More than 4,500 people have been killed since April in a surge of violence by insurgents aimed at undermining confidence in the government. The growing unrest has intensified fears of renewed war between Shiites and Sunnis.

Zebari said the United States has responded positively to Iraq's request for military equipment and counterterrorism and intelligence assistance, but a request for drones is still "being processed."

CUBA-JESSE JACKSON

UPDATE: Rev. Jackson to mediate for US captive in Colombia

HAVANA (AP) — HAVANA (AP) — The Rev. Jesse Jackson says he's agreed to mediate in the case of a former U.S. soldier held captive by Colombia's largest guerrilla group since June, calling the American's release "imminent."

The civil rights activist, who's in Cuba, announced his intervention in the case of Kevin Scott Sutay after meeting late into the previous night with leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

FARC and Colombian government negotiators have been holding peace talks in Havana since November 2012.

Jackson, who plans to travel to Colombia next week, says "We have made contact with the (U.S.) State Department urging them to contact the next of kin of Kevin Scott and let them know his release is imminent."

But Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos says on Twitter that "only the Red Cross will be authorized to facilitate the handover of the North American kidnapped by the FARC. We will not allow a media spectacle."

Sutay is a former Army combat engineer and private who served in Afghanistan. He was detained by the rebels in June while walking through the jungle southeast of the Colombian capital, Bogota. FARC says he was wearing military fatigues and carrying surveillance equipment.

TROPICAL WEATHER

NEW: Tropical depression forms over central Atlantic

MIAMI (AP) — Forecasters say a tropical depression has formed in the central Atlantic Ocean but is nowhere near land.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said late Saturday that the depression has maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph) and that it's expected to strengthen into a tropical storm on Sunday.

The storm is about 1,010 miles (1,625 kilometers) east-southeast of Bermuda and is moving north at about 9 mph (15 kph).

CONGRESS-COMPOUNDING PHARMACIES

House OKs bill aimed at improving drug safety

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has approved legislation aimed at improving the safety of drugs made by compounding pharmacies, which mix customized medicines.

The measure is a response to a meningitis outbreak last year that killed 64 people and sickened hundreds more. It was traced to a compounding company in Massachusetts that has since closed.

The House approved the legislation by voice vote on Saturday as lawmakers held a weekend session to focus on their budget and health care dispute with President Barack Obama.

It was hailed by lawmakers from both parties. Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro criticized it because it would let companies register voluntarily with the Food and Drug Administration.

FIREFIGHTERS KILLED

Radio problems cited in deaths of 19 firefighters

PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) — An investigation into the June deaths of 19 firefighters killed while battling an Arizona blaze has found a litany of problems stemming from inadequate radio communication.

The report by a team of fire experts cites improperly programmed radios, vague updates, and a 30-minute communication blackout just before the flames engulfed the men.

The report says at the moment the firefighters were killed, an air tanker carrying fire retardant was hovering overhead, waiting for an update about their location.

The findings were released Saturday.

The 20-member Granite Mountain Hotshots team arrived on June 30 to fight the fire outside Yarnell, about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix. About nine hours later, the crew radioed that they were trapped by flames and deploying their shelters. One crew member who was assigned as the lookout survived.

BASEBALL FAN STABBED

Stabbed fan's dad to speak

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The father of a Dodgers fan fatality stabbed during a melee with Giants fans is planning to make a public plea for witnesses to the incident after San Francisco's district attorney said he lacks evidence to charge the man suspected of the killing.

A family member said the victim's father plans to speak outside the Giants' stadium before the scheduled 1:05 p.m. PDT Sunday game with the San Diego Padres. Michael Montgomery was released from jail Friday night after the San Francisco district attorney said police had insufficient evidence to charge him in the death of Jonathan Denver.

The district attorney said police had not spoken with any independent witnesses who may have witnessed the fight Wednesday night. Robert Preece believes someone may have recorded the melee with mobile phones, said Preece's sister Jill Preece Haro.

MUSIC-GLOBAL CITIZEN FESTIVAL

NEW: Wonder headlines NYC concert highlighting poverty

NEW YORK (AP) — Bono served as an opening act for Stevie Wonder.

The U2 frontman gave a funky, rousing introduction to Wonder, who headlined the Global Citizen Festival on New York's Central Park on Saturday. It was the second annual concert to help end poverty around the world.

Wonder performed a number of his hits, wowing the audience of thousands who danced and sang along to "Superstition" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours." John Mayer also was a favorite — especially with his solo work on the guitar. Alicia Keys and Kings of Leon also performed Saturday.

The Global Citizen Festival coincides with the U.N. General Assembly. Fans earn free tickets for helping spread the word or volunteering to help end world poverty.

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