NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — It's an audiotape the New York Police Department hoped you would never hear.
A building superintendent at an apartment complex just off the Rutgers University campus called the New Brunswick Police 911 line in June 2009. He said his staff had been conducting a routine inspection and came across something suspicious.
"What's suspicious?" the dispatcher asked.
"Suspicious in the sense that the apartment has about — has no furniture except two beds, has no clothing, has New York City Police Department radios."
"Really?" the dispatcher asked, her voice rising with surprise.
Obama and Romney swap criticism on foreign policy, but opponents offer few policy differences
SEATTLE (AP) — In a rare face-off on foreign policy, President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney are swapping sharp criticism but exposing few clear policy differences on key national security matters.
For Romney, who seeks to boost his foreign policy credentials as he begins a high-stakes trip abroad, a lack of specific proposals has exposed him to a flurry of criticism from Obama and his surrogates. Just over three months from Election Day, the president's team has dug in on its efforts to cast the Republican as a national security lightweight while trying to capitalize on Obama's strength on such issues.
Following Romney's speech Tuesday to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, Vice President Joe Biden said Romney "reflexively criticizes the president's policies without offering any alternatives."
"When he does venture a position," Biden said, "it's a safe bet that he previously took exactly the opposite position and will probably change his mind again and land in the wrong place — far out of the mainstream."
Romney's campaign has swatted away that criticism, but it's also shown few signs that the presumptive GOP nominee will offer more specific areas of contrast with Obama when he meets with world leaders overseas. Instead, Romney has continued with broad jabs casting Obama as a timid leader.
After Colorado theater massacre, fear prompts people to buy guns and puts moviegoers on edge
DENVER (AP) — Firearms sales are surging in the wake of the Colorado movie theater massacre as buyers express fears that anti-gun politicians may use the shootings to seek new restrictions on owning weapons.
In Colorado, the site of Friday's shooting that killed 12 and injured dozens of others, gun sales jumped in the three days that followed. The state approved background checks for 2,887 people who wanted to purchase a firearm — 25 percent more than the average Friday to Sunday period in 2012 and 43 percent more than the same interval the week prior.
Dick Rutan, owner of Gunners Den in suburban Arvada, Colo., said requests for concealed-weapon training certification "are off the hook." His four-hour course in gun safety, required for certification for a concealed-weapons permit in Colorado, has drawn double the interest since Friday.
"What they're saying is: They want to have a chance. They want to have the ability to protect themselves and their families if they are in a situation like what happened in the movie theater," Rutan said.
Day-to-day gun sales frequently fluctuate, but the numbers also look strong outside of Colorado, too.
Penn State loses one sponsor, others could follow; cost of child sex abuse scandal rises
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — State Farm is pulling its ads from Penn State football broadcasts, while General Motors is reconsidering its sponsorship deal and Wall Street is threatening to downgrade the school's credit rating, suggesting the price of the sexual abuse scandal could go well beyond the $60 million fine and other penalties imposed by the NCAA.
Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm said it had been reviewing its connection to Penn State since the arrest of retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky last November. The insurance company said it will pull ads from broadcasts of Nittany Lions home games but continue to advertise during Penn State's away contests.
"We will not directly support Penn State football this year," State Farm spokesman Dave Phillips said Tuesday. "We just feel it was the best decision."
State Farm had no immediate information on how much money is at stake.
The NCAA imposed unprecedented sanctions against Penn State on Monday, including the fine, a four-year bowl ban and a sharp reduction in the number of football scholarships it may offer.
Turkey closes Syria border to trucks as fighting in commercial hub Aleppo rages for 5th day
BEIRUT (AP) — Turkey sealed its border with Syria to trucks on Wednesday, cutting off a vital supply line to the embattled nation as fighting stretched into its fifth day in the commercial capital of Aleppo.
Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan said deteriorating security was behind the closure.
"We have serious concerns over the safety of Turkish trucks regarding their entry and return from Syria," Caglayan said, noting that there had already been a 87 percent drop in trucks traveling to Syria this year.
Turkey was an ally of neighboring Syria before the uprising against authoritarian President Bashar Assad began 16 months ago. But it has turned into a harsh critic and its territory along the of the 566-mile (911-kilometer) border is used as a staging ground for the rebel army as well as a haven for thousands of refugees fleeing violence that activists say has killed 19,000 people so far.
Northern Syria, especially the province of Idlib, has been a steady scene of heavy fighting between Syrian forces and the rebels and large swathes of the countryside are under rebel control. Rebels, for their part, generally move their weapons and material over the border through clandestine smuggler routes.
Senate ready for partisan showdown on tax cuts that is all about politics, symbolism
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is bracing for a tax-cut showdown that is all about Democrats and Republicans showing voters their differences over taxing the well-off while accusing each other of threatening to shove the government over a fiscal cliff.
Senators planned to vote Wednesday on a $250 billion Democratic bill that would extend expiring tax cuts next year for all but the highest earners. Democrats will need 60 votes to advance the proposal, which they do not have.
It seemed unlikely that senators also would vote on a rival GOP plan that includes the best-off Americans in the tax reductions, a measure that was destined to lose.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was ready to push legislation through his chamber next week that closely mirrors the Senate GOP measure. Republicans there introduced their bill on Tuesday, accompanied by another measure designed to speed work next year on legislation overhauling the entire tax code.
The clash in the Senate underscored how little the partisan tax-cutting duel had to do with actually passing a law this year. If anything, it highlighted how entrenched both parties' views were.
Satellites spot melting nearly all over Greenland, a sudden freak event not seen since 1889
WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly all of Greenland's massive ice sheet suddenly started melting a bit this month, a freak event that surprised scientists.
Even Greenland's coldest and highest place, Summit station, showed melting. Ice core records show that last happened in 1889 and occurs about once every 150 years.
Three satellites show what NASA calls unprecedented melting of the ice sheet that blankets the island, starting on July 8 and lasting four days. Most of the thick ice remains. While some ice usually melts during the summer, what was unusual was that the melting happened in a flash and over a widespread area.
"You literally had this wave of warm air wash over the Greenland ice sheet and melt it," NASA ice scientist Tom Wagner said Tuesday.
The ice melt area went from 40 percent of the ice sheet to 97 percent in four days, according to NASA. Until now, the most extensive melt seen by satellites in the past three decades was about 55 percent.
Jackson family feuds publicly as siblings question singer's will, estate says it's 'concerned'
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Turmoil in Michael Jackson's family continued Tuesday as a family feud that has engulfed the singer's mother and children continued to play out in online posts, on national television and in a videotaped driveway confrontation that authorities continue to investigate.
It should perhaps be no surprise that a family that has spent decades in the spotlight is airing its troubles in public, but the dispute has left many, including estate executors, worried.
"We are concerned that we do what we can to protect them from undue influences, bullying, greed, and other unfortunate circumstances," executors John Branca and John McClain wrote in a letter posted on fan sites hours after deputies responded to a family disturbance at the hilltop home where Katherine Jackson and her three grandchildren live.
By day's end, Randy Jackson accused Branca and McClain of criminal misconduct and claimed his brother's 2002 will was a fake.
"They know that they've been caught, they know that they've falsified a document and they know that there are questions that we want answered," Randy Jackson told the Rev. Al Sharpton on Sharpton's MSNBC show. "This family is united to right a wrong."
Police: Sherman Hemsley, who played George Jefferson on TV's "The Jeffersons," dies in El Paso
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — George Jefferson was a bigot. A loudmouth. Rude. Obsessed with money. Arrogant. And yet he was one of the most enjoyable, beloved characters in television history.
Much of that credit belongs to Sherman Hemsley, the gifted character actor who gave life to the blustering black Harlem businessman on "The Jeffersons," one of TV's longest running and most successful sitcoms — particularly noteworthy with its mostly black cast.
The Philadelphia-born Hemsley, who police said late Tuesday died at his home in El Paso, Texas, at age 74, first played George Jefferson on CBS's "All in the Family" before he was spun off onto "The Jeffersons." The sitcom ran for 11 seasons from 1975 to 1985.
With the gospel-style theme song of "Movin' On Up," the hit show depicted the wealthy former neighbors of Archie and Edith Bunker in Queens as they made their way on New York's Upper East Side. Hemsley and the Jeffersons (Isabel Sanford played his wife) often dealt with contemporary issues of racism, but more frequently reveled in the sitcom archetype of a short-tempered, opinionated patriarch trying, often unsuccessfully to control his family.
Hemsley's feisty, diminutive father with an exaggerated strut was a kind of black corollary to Archie Bunker — a stubborn, high-strung man who had a deep dislike for whites (his favorite word for them was honkies). Yet unlike the blue-collar Bunker, played by Carroll O'Connor, he was a successful businessman whose was as rich as he was crass. His wife, Weezie, was often his foil — yet provided plenty of zingers as well.
ON FOOTBALL: Yes it took a big hit, but Penn State program is far from dead
The mere suggestion that NCAA sanctions against Penn State were worse than receiving the so-called death penalty were enough to make first-year coach Bill O'Brien raise his voice a notch.
"No. We are playing football," O'Brien said forcefully during a conference call Tuesday with reporters. "We open our season on Sept. 1 in front of 108,000 strong against Ohio University. We're playing football and we're on TV. We get to practice. We get to get better as football players, and get to do it for Penn State."
The NCAA crushed Penn State with scholarship reductions that could be felt for much of this decade and a bowl ban over the next four seasons. But it stopped short of handing down the death penalty, forcing the school to shut down the program the way it did to SMU in 1987.
It is fair to wonder if Penn State football will ever be what it once was: a perennial Top 20 program that routinely contended for Big Ten championships and occasionally national titles.
But to suggest that Penn State's punishment is comparable to or worse than SMU's is to forget just how difficult it has been for the Mustangs to recover. And make no mistake, 25 years later, SMU football is still recovering.