Saturday March 23, 2013

Obama in Jordan warns of extremist threat in Syria when -- not if -- Assad is ousted

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) -- Anxious to keep Syria’s civil war from spiraling into even worse problems, President Barack Obama said Friday he worries about the country becoming a haven for extremists when -- not if -- President Bashar Assad is ousted from power.

Obama, standing side by side with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, said the international community must work together to ensure there is a credible opposition ready to step into the breach.

"Something has been broken in Syria, and it’s not going to be put back together perfectly immediately -- even after Assad leaves," Obama said. "But we can begin the process of moving it in a better direction, and having a cohesive opposition is critical to that."

He said Assad is sure to go but there is great uncertainty about what will happen after that.

"I am very concerned about Syria becoming an enclave for extremism," Obama said, adding that extremism thrives in chaos and failed states. He said the rest of the world has a huge stake in ensuring that a functioning Syria emerges.

Former inmate dies in Texas shootout, may be tied to deaths of Colo. prison chief, deliveryman

DECATUR, Texas (AP) -- A former Colorado inmate and white supremacist at the center of a two-state mystery is dead after a high-speed chase and shootout with Texas deputies.


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Now investigators are trying to piece together whether he killed the chief of Colorado prisons and a pizza delivery man and where he was headed when Texas police stopped him.

Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, is a Colorado parolee with a long record of convictions since 2003 for various crimes including assaulting a prison guard in 2008. He was a member of a white supremacist prison gang called the 211s, a federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the case and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Colorado officials would not confirm Ebel’s gang ties or say whether they had anything to do with the death of prisons director Tom Clements. But they said that, since the Tuesday night killing, state troopers have provided extra security for Colorado government officials.

"We are at a heightened alert," said Steve Johnson of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation at a Friday news conference here.

Denver police said they were "confident" he was also involved in the death of Nathan Leon, 27, the pizza man whose body was found Sunday.

Cyprus lawmakers to vote on plan to get rescue money to prevent bankruptcy

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) -- Cypriot lawmakers were finalizing Friday a new plan they hope will raise enough money to qualify the country for a bailout package and help it avoid financial ruin next week.

Cyprus’ president, Nicos Anastasiades, will travel to Brussels on Saturday to present the plan to the country’s prospective creditors, its fellow eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. There has been no indication yet that they will accept it.

The package of nine laws was expected to be voted on in Parliament Friday night, three days after lawmakers decisively rejected a plan that would have seized up to 10 percent of people’s bank deposits.

Cyprus has been told to raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion) to qualify for 10 billion euros ($12.9 billion) in rescue loans from the eurozone and the IMF.

The country faces a pressing Monday deadline, when the European Central Bank has said will stop provide emergency funding to the country’s banks it a new plan is not in place. Without the ECB’s support, Cypriot banks would collapse on Tuesday, pushing the country toward bankruptcy and a potential exit from the 17-country euro currency union.

Police arrest 2 Ga. teens, 17 and 14, in slaying of baby in stroller, wounding of mother

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) -- Police arrested two teenagers Friday who are suspected in the shooting death of a 13-month-old baby in a stroller and wounding the baby’s mother during an attempted robbery.

Seventeen-year-old De’Marquis Elkins is charged as an adult with first-degree murder, along with a 14-year-old who was not identified because he is a juvenile, Police Chief Tobe Green said.

Police announced the arrest Friday afternoon after combing school records and canvassing neighborhoods searching for the pair. The chief said the motive of the "horrendous act" was still under investigation and the weapon had not been found.

The mother, Sherry West, wept Friday while she told The Associated Press that she pleaded with the gunman and a younger accomplice who approached her Thursday morning while she walked near their home in coastal Brunswick.

"He asked me for money and I said I didn’t have it," she said. "When you have a baby, you spend all your money on babies. They’re expensive. And he kept asking and I just said ‘I don’t have it.’ And he said, ‘Do you want me to kill your baby?’ And I said, ‘No, don’t kill my baby!’"

Fla. to probe 2nd charity sweepstakes chain, after 57 arrests in vets’ group case

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (AP) -- Fresh off a nearly $300 million racketeering case involving a veterans’ charity that benefited from simulated gambling at Internet cafes, Florida regulators will investigate a children’s cancer group connected to a similar operation that is four times bigger.

The new probe comes in response to Associated Press inquiries about Children’s Cancer Cooperative, a group that operates out of a South Carolina bingo parlor, shares a lawyer with Allied Veterans of the World and has collected cash from more than 200 of the sweepstakes cafes in Florida.

In exchange for the money that has flowed into the Children’s Cancer Cooperative from the cafes, the charity’s name is listed as sponsoring sweepstakes prizes offered at the cafes, giving players the impression money lost on the fast-moving games mimicking Vegas-style slots goes to help sick kids.

As with the Allied Veterans case announced earlier this month, the central questions will be how much money the cafes raised, how much of that should have been taxed, and how much ultimately went to charity.

When authorities in Florida charged 57 people in the Allied Veterans case, they labeled Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis -- who has also for years represented Children’s Cancer Cooperative -- the architect of the scheme. The resulting political and legal maelstrom triggered the resignation of Republican Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who had done consulting work for the charity, and sent top elected officials from both parties in Florida and North Carolina scrambling to return or at least explain the more than $1 million in campaign contributions they accepted from donors linked to Allied.

Newtown victim’s parents say meeting with killer’s father was emotional, but they’re not angry

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- When Alissa and Robbie Parker met face to face recently with the father of the young man who killed their daughter and 19 other first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, they weren’t angry with him and didn’t blame him for the massacre.

Instead, the Parkers said they and Peter Lanza shared their condolences for one another and talked about his son, Adam Lanza, during the emotional meeting, which lasted more than an hour.

"I don’t feel like he should be held responsible for what happened that day," Alissa Parker told "CBS This Morning" during the second part of an interview that aired Friday. "That was not ultimately his decision to do that, so how can I hold him responsible? Were there missteps in the raising of his son? Possibly."

Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot 20 children and six educators with a military-style rifle on Dec. 14, then killed himself as police arrived. Authorities say he also killed his mother, Nancy, at their Newtown home before he went to the school. The Parkers lost their 6-year-old daughter, Emilie, in the rampage.

Alissa Parker said she told Peter Lanza that there was an opportunity to learn from the killings and his cooperation was vital.

Groundhog’s false spring prediction brings indictment in Ohio

CINCINNATI (AP) -- A shadow of a different kind is hanging over Punxsutawney Phil.

Authorities in still-frigid Ohio have issued an "indictment" against the famed groundhog, who predicted an early spring when he didn’t see his shadow after emerging from his lair in western Pennsylvania on Feb. 2.

Spring arrived Wednesday, and temperatures are still hovering in the 30s in the Buckeye state and much of the Northeast. While it’s not the coldest spring on record, it’s a good 5 degrees below normal, said Don Hughes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio.

So the heat is on against Phil, and the furry rodent has been charged with misrepresentation of spring, a felony "against the peace and dignity of the state of Ohio," wrote prosecutor Mike Gmoser in an official-looking indictment.

"Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that spring would come early," Gmoser declared.