Scott Neuman

Newly formed Tropical Storm Karen, which could reach hurricane strength by Friday, is expected to make landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast sometime over the weekend.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says the late-season storm formed Thursday morning about 485 miles south of the Mississippi Delta, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph. It was moving north-northwest at 12 mph, but was expected to speed up.

Forecasters say it will make landfall in the U.S. either Saturday or Sunday.

The Treasury Department is issuing a warning of dire economic consequences that could rival the Great Recession if Congress is unable to agree on raising the debt ceiling and the nation defaults on its obligations.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate panel on Wednesday that the government shutdown — which forced the furlough of 70 percent of the CIA and NSA workforce — amounted to a "dreamland" of opportunity for foreign spy agencies.

Clapper, who appeared side by side with National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander, told a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee that failure to fund the government "is not just a Beltway issue. It affects our capability to support the military, diplomacy and our policymakers."

Herman Wallace, one of the "Angola 3" inmates who spent more than 40 years in solitary confinement for the killing of a guard, has been freed after his conviction was overturned.

U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson in Baton Rouge, La., said Tuesday that Wallace had not received a fair trial.

The Associated Press says that Jackson "had also ordered a new trial because women were unconstitutionally excluded from the grand jury that indicted Wallace in the guard's death. And, he ordered him immediately released."

The FBI has moved to crack down on a shadowy back channel of the Internet — where transactions take place outside of easily accessible domains — arresting the alleged proprietor of the black-market site Silk Road, which has been called the eBay of the drug trade.

Ross William Ulbricht, 29, known by his hacker handle "Dread Pirate Roberts," was arrested Tuesday morning in San Francisco and charged with one count each of narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations' court filing.

Pope Francis is meeting on Tuesday with his closest advisors, a hand-picked lot of like-minded cardinals, to discuss the direction of the Roman Catholic Church.

If you're suffering withdrawal symptoms from the National Zoo's "pandacams" — sadly deemed "nonessential" and therefore shut down, along with much of the rest of the government — we have the perfect antidote:

Scientists are reasonably sure that it's a cloudy day on Kepler-7b, a planet that orbits its star about 1,000 light-years away from us.

Using NASA's orbiting space telescopes, researchers publishing in Astrophysical Journal Letters say that for the first time they've been able to make a rudimentary map of the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet.

The team used faint visible light and infrared reflections from Kepler-7b to make their cloud map.

House Republicans and Senate Democrats could not reach agreement by the midnight deadline on a spending bill to keep the government operating, triggering an immediate shutdown of nonessential services and the furlough of nonessential personnel potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

Updated at 1:40 a.m. ET, House Speaker Boehner's Comments:

Scientists think they've identified the source of a massive volcanic eruption that occurred in A.D. 1257 and spread telltale traces across the globe.

The culprit in the "mystery eruption" appears to be the Samalas volcano, part of the Mount Rinjani Volcanic Complex on Indonesia's Lombok Island, an international team of scientists publishing in PNAS journal says.

With the seeming certainty of a federal shutdown at the stroke of midnight, there's been some polling in the past week or so aimed at divining the political fallout.

Who will be blamed?

Will it be House Republicans, with their unyielding efforts to defund and delay Obamacare, or Democrats (and President Obama) who will be viewed as unwilling to compromise?

Here's a short guide to some recent polling:

An ex-military intelligence officer who prosecutors say siphoned millions from a bogus charity for U.S. Navy veterans is going on trial in Ohio.

The 67-year-old defendant calls himself Bobby Thompson, but authorities say his real name is John Donald Cody. He was arrested last year in Portland, Ore., after two years on the run, and is charged with masterminding a $100 million multistate fraud using a charity called United States Veterans Association, based in Tampa, Fla.

Ikea Corp., the Swedish housewares giant, says it will begin selling solar panels to its customers in Britain as it aims to tap into a growing market for renewable energy fueled partly by the U.K.'s solar subsidies.

Two former U.S. Army sergeants are among those facing charges in connection with an alleged international hit squad after their extradition from Thailand in a case the prosecuting U.S. attorney says reads like a Tom Clancy novel.

Joseph Manuel Hunter, 48, nicknamed "Rambo," was arrested by Thai authorities after a sting operation led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, along with Timothy Vamvakias and at least three others on the resort island of Phuket on Thursday.

A Danish shipping company announced Friday the first-ever voyage of a large commercial freighter through the Northwest Passage — a journey made possible by the disappearance of Arctic ice due to global warming.

Update At 3:50 p.m. EDT.

President Obama on Friday praised the Senate for passing a spending bill to keep the federal government operating and called House GOP efforts to tie approving the measure to defunding the Affordable Care Act "political grandstanding."

He said that despite Republican hopes that Obamacare will be repealed, "That's not going to happen," accusing Republicans of threatening to "blow up the entire economy."

No one has the right to precipitate such a crisis, he said, "just because there are a couple of laws you don't like."

One thing you can say about the diminutive speckled sea louse: it's always on time.

Scientists studying the tiny crustacean, a marine cousin of the wood-louse, found that it runs not one, but two internal clocks. Not only does the creature have a circadian rhythm, or so called "body clock" like most land-dwelling animals, including humans, but it also has a circatidal clock that follows the 12.4-hour cycle of the tide.

U.S. drone strikes carried out in Pakistan appear to have little impact on insurgent violence in neighboring Afghanistan, according to a new meta-study published by the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College.

But the study also finds that strikes carried out by unmanned aerial vehicles cause fewer civilian casualties than other kinds of combat and that those deaths don't appear to be linked to further violence against U.S. forces and allies.

(This post was updated at 11 a.m. on Sept. 27.)

There's been a number of stories lately about astonishing discoveries by law enforcement using side-scan sonar.

Auction site eBay, which owns PayPal, is buying the online and mobile payment company Braintree for $800 million — an acquisition that eBay's CEO calls "a perfect fit."

The deal, announced Thursday, could help eBay as it tries to convince customers to ditch their credit and debit cards and use PayPal instead.

"Braintree is a perfect fit with PayPal," eBay Inc. President and CEO John Donahoe said in a statement.

A 50-year prison sentence handed to Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia convicted of war crimes, has been upheld by a judge at The Hague.

The remains of two people, presumed to be a missing passenger and crew member from the ill-fated Costa Concordia, have been located by divers near the site of the wrecked cruise liner that was righted last week in a dramatic salvage operation off the Italian coast.

You might think twice about using your iPhone's map app if you're trying to reach the Fairbanks International Airport, unless you want to end up on the runway.

As The Alaska Dispatch reports:

"[The] directions take you on a turn-by-turn route to Taxiway Bravo. From there, it's a direct shot across the main runway to the terminal.

Oracle Team USA has successfully defended the America's Cup, leaving challenger New Zealand in its wake off San Francisco after clawing back from a seven-race deficit in one of the most spectacular comebacks in yachting history.

A week ago, it looked to be all over for the U.S., with the Kiwis having built a seemingly unassailable lead and poised at one race away from taking the Auld Mug back to New Zealand.

As faces go, Entelognathus primordialis isn't much to look at, even for a fish.

But consider that the 419 million-year-old, armor-plated fish is the earliest known creature to have what humans might recognize as a face, according to research published Wednesday in Nature. That's mostly due to its bony, modern jaw.

As USA Today reports:

After Ohio death row inmate Harry Mitts Jr. is executed on Wednesday, the state will have officially run out of pentobarbital — the lethal injection drug.

That's because the Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck LLC, which manufactures the drug, has cut off its supply in deference to the European Union's opposition to capital punishment.

Boeing says it completed a successful test flight of an F-16 fighter retrofitted as a drone last week, the first-ever such pilotless mission.

The original F-16 was built by Lockheed. Boeing modified the aircraft, dubbed the QF-16, so that a pair of ground-based pilots could control it. The test flight took off from Florida and went over the Gulf of Mexico.

Boeing thinks such aircraft could be used to spar with fighter jocks during training maneuvers, a la Top Gun.

There will be more passenger flights in the Asia-Pacific than anywhere else in the world in the next 20 years, with the region accounting for a third of all new commercial aircraft orders, according to Airbus's latest Global Market Forecast.

Miami-based Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise operator, reported a third quarter profit nearly a third lower than a year ago following a series of embarrassing and deadly mishaps involving its ships.

Carnival turned a $934 million profit for the period June through August, down 30 percent from the same quarter in 2012.

Authorities have charged two more suspects in connection with last week's shooting in Chicago that wounded 13 people. Police believe that one of them, 22-year-old Tabari Young, was the one who severely wounded a toddler.

That brings to four the number of people charged in connection with the mass shooting Thursday at Cornell Square Park on the city's South Side. Police say it was gang-related.

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