UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Western nations and allies in the Middle East meet Friday to urge Syria's fractured opposition to unite, seeking a new path for ending the country's conflict amid deadlock between major powers on the U.N. Security Council.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was hosting talks among the Friends of Syria — a coalition which includes the United States, the European Union and the Arab League — on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, seeking to encourage better cooperation among groups which oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The talks, which don't include Russia, China or Iran, take place with the Security Council at a stalemate on efforts to halt the 18-month long conflict, which activists say has led to more than 30,000 deaths.
Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring Assad to end the violence and enter negotiations on a political transition, paralyzing the U.N.'s most powerful body and denting chances of any progress during the General Assembly.
Clinton has decried Assad's "murdering of his own people," while Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — who will address the General Assembly on Friday — has accused the U.S. and other countries of encouraging terrorism in their stance on Syria.
As first presidential debate looms, Romney to court donors, voters in Pennsylvania on Friday
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — His path to victory narrowing, Mitt Romney is looking to Pennsylvania to help slow President Barack Obama's momentum ahead of a high-stakes meeting on the debate stage next week.
The Republican presidential nominee was to campaign Friday in the Philadelphia area, first courting donors at a high-dollar fundraiser and then meeting voters at a midday rally.
Fresh off a promise to spend more time in the swing states that matter most, Romney will pass much of the day in a state that has not supported a Republican presidential candidate in nearly a quarter-century. His campaign is not running any television ads in Pennsylvania, and aides privately concede that Obama has a significant advantage just 40 days before Election Day.
They suggest that Romney's visit — his first to the state in more than two months — is largely designed to raise the money needed to narrow Obama's edge in more competitive states. After raising $5 million at a Washington event Thursday, Romney is expected to generate more than $1 million in Philadelphia and an additional $7 million at a Boston fundraiser later Friday.
"We're going to have to make the right choice on Nov. 6, and you're going to make that happen," Romney told cheering donors in Washington.
Obama campaign registers 250,000 voters in North Carolina as it tries to keep the state close
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Dozens of volunteers armed with clipboards and voter registration forms gather at President Barack Obama's field office here every day. Their mission: Fan out across the city seeking new voters in this rapidly growing state.
"Are you registered to vote at your current address?" asks Douglas Johnston, a volunteer wooing voters outside the county courthouse. "Do you know about early voting?"
The effort, it seems, has borne fruit — to the tune of more than 250,000 new registered voters in North Carolina since April 2011, according to Obama's team. That's more new voters than the campaign has registered anywhere else in the country.
It's an eye-popping total in a state that Obama won by just 14,000 votes four years ago. And the flood of new voters — presumably a chunk of them Democrats — could help keep North Carolina within the president's reach in a year when everything else here seems to be working in Republican Mitt Romney's favor.
North Carolina has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate just twice in 40 years. The state's economy is abysmal; its 9.7 percent unemployment rate is among the nation's highest. And the president's embrace of gay marriage put him at odds with a majority of North Carolina voters, including many blacks, who make up the core of his support here.
Kenyan forces attack last remaining stronghold of al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Kenyan troops invaded al-Shabab's last stronghold in Somalia, coming ashore in a predawn assault Friday. Other African Union forces were traveling overland to link up with the Kenyan forces in the port city of Kismayo.
Col. Cyrus Oguna, the Kenyan military's top spokesman, said the surprise attack met minimal resistance but al-Shabab denied that the city had fallen and said fighting was taking place. Oguna said that al-Shabab has incurred "heavy losses" but that Kenyan forces have not yet had any injuries or deaths.
Residents in Kismayo contacted by The Associated Press said that Kenyan troops had taken control of the port but not the whole city.
"Al-Shabab fighters are on the streets and heading toward the front line in speeding cars. Their radio is still on the air and reporting the war," resident Mohamed Haji told The Associated Press. Haji said that helicopters were hitting targets in the town in southeastern Somalia.
A U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Cdr. Dave Hecht, said the U.S. Africa Command, known as AFRICOM, is closely monitoring the situation but that "we are not participating in Kenya's military activities in the region."
Presidential coattails a potential factor in some tight races for control of Senate
WASHINGTON (AP) — If Rep. Connie Mack scores an upset over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in Florida's Senate race, he'll probably owe Mitt Romney a thank you. Should former Gov. Tim Kaine hold off former Sen. George Allen in the Senate contest in Virginia, President Barack Obama may deserve a share of credit.
The fates of Obama and Romney in November are likely to impact more than the White House. They will help shape a number of key Senate and House races. The prospect of presidential coattails — or the opposite, a drag — is factoring into the way races down the ballot are being run, especially in close contests.
"There's obviously a down-ballot impact from the performance of the top of the ticket," said Sen. John Thune, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate. So Senate Republicans are pulling for Romney and doing all they can to help him, Thune said. Of Romney, he added: "We need him to do well."
Democrats feel the same about the top of their ticket. Leaders in the Senate, including Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, said Democratic Senate candidates were certain to benefit from a stronger Obama performance in November. They said they'd also benefit if Romney stumbles.
"One of the reasons our Senate numbers have gone up in the last few weeks is distaste for Romney," Schumer said last week.
Months of warning signs preceded actor's apparent killing of woman and his own death
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Probation officials openly worried about actor Johnny Lewis' mental health and his danger to others in recent months, and this week their worst fears came true.
The man who died a violent death on "Sons of Anarchy" three years ago apparently beat and strangled his landlady and attacked neighbors before falling or leaping to his own death in neighborhood near Hollywood on Wednesday afternoon.
They were the final violent acts of a man who in the previous 10 months had been repeatedly arrested, sent to counseling and had left jail only five days before his demise.
Court records and his attorney detailed attempts to help Lewis but not in time to help 81-year-old Catherine Davis, who neighbors reported screaming inside a home near the outskirts of Los Angeles' Griffith Park. The home had been ransacked, glass was shattered and a dead cat was also found inside, and Lewis' body was found in the driveway.
Lewis' cause of death is pending toxicology results, Coroner's investigative division Lt. Fred Corral said Thursday evening. Davis died from blunt head trauma and manual strangulation, he said.
New name adds latest twist in case of Calif. man behind anti-Muslim film
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The surrounding mystery of the man behind the crudely produced anti-Islamic video that sparked violence in the Middle East took a strange turn after he appeared in court and gave yet another name in a string of aliases.
Arrested on Thursday after authorities said he violated his probation from a 2010 check fraud conviction, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula told a judge his real name was Mark Basseley Youseff. He said he'd been using that name since 2002, even though he went by Nakoula in his fraud case.
The full story about Nakoula and the video "Innocence of Muslims" still isn't known more than two weeks after violence erupted in Egypt and Libya, where Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others were killed in Benghazi. Violence related to the film has since spread, killing dozens more.
Citing a lengthy pattern of deception and the potential to flee, U.S. Central District Chief Magistrate Judge Suzanne Segal ordered Nakoula to remain in prison without bond until another judge can hold a hearing to determine if he broke the terms of his probation.
"The court has a lack of trust in this defendant at this time," Segal said.
Postmaster general: Viability of struggling mail agency now lies almost entirely with Congress
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Postal Service, on the brink of default on a second multibillion-dollar payment it can't afford to pay, is sounding a new cautionary note that having squeezed out all the cost savings within its power, the mail agency's viability now lies almost entirely with Congress.
In an interview, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the mail agency will be forced to miss the $5.6 billion payment due to the Treasury on Sunday, its second default in as many months. Congress has left Washington until after the November elections, without approving a postal fix.
For more than a year, the Postal Service has been seeking legislation that would allow it to eliminate Saturday mail delivery and reduce its $5 billion annual payment for future retiree health benefits. Since the House failed to act, the post office says it's been seeking to reassure anxious customers that service will not be disrupted, even with cash levels running perilously low.
"Absolutely, we would be profitable right now," Donahoe told The Associated Press, when asked whether congressional delays were to blame for much of the postal losses, expected to reach a record $15 billion this year.
He said the two missed payments totaling $11.1 billion for future retiree health benefits — payments ordered by Congress in 2006 that no other government agency or business is required to make — along with similar expenses make up the bulk of the annual loss. The remainder is nearly $3 billion in losses, he said, which would have been offset by savings if the service had been allowed to move to five-day mail delivery.
Police say gunman killed 4 people in Minneapolis sign business before fatally shooting himself
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A gunman killed four people inside a Minneapolis sign-making business before turning the weapon on himself, authorities said early Friday.
Officers summoned Thursday afternoon by a 911 call discovered the victims' bodies shortly after arriving at Accent Signage Systems Inc., located in a residential area in the city's north side, according to a statement from police spokesman Sgt. Stephen McCarty.
"When officers arrived and entered the business to assist with the evacuation of employees, give aid to the victims and to search for the suspect, they found four victims dead from apparent gunshot wounds," the statement said.
Four other people were wounded, including three critically.
No details were released about the gunman, other than he was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Man in Conn. fatally shoots masked teen outside neighbor's home, learns it's his son
NEW FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) — During what appeared to be an attempted late-night burglary, a man fatally shot a masked teenager in self-defense outside his neighbor's house and then discovered it was his son, state police said.
Police said 15-year-old Tyler Giuliano was shot at about 1 a.m. Thursday in New Fairfield, a town along the New York line just north of Danbury.
A woman who was alone in the house believed someone was breaking in and called the teen's father, who lives next door, and he grabbed a gun and went outside to investigate, police said.
The father confronted someone wearing a black ski mask and black clothing and then fired his gun when the person went at him with a shiny weapon in his hand, police said.
When police officers arrived, the teen was lying in the driveway of the woman's home with gunshot wounds and the father was sitting on the grass. The teen was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.