Saturday December 29, 2012

Three officers hurt in shooting at New Jersey police station, early Friday morning

GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) -- A man who had been arrested for allegedly stalking an ex-girlfriend overpowered an officer inside a police station, grabbed her gun and shot her and two other officers before being killed by police early Friday, authorities said.

All three wounded officers were expected to recover.

Eddie Jones III, 39, of Willingboro, overpowered Officer Ruth Burns inside the station in Gloucester Township, a Philadelphia suburb, police said. He fired at her and two officers who had been in a nearby room and came rushing to aid their colleague. The two officers fired on Jones, killing him.

"This morning, the reality of a cruel world fell upon our doorstep," said Mayor David Mayer. "We thank God our officers are expected to fully recover."

Sgt. James Garber was shot multiple times and underwent emergency surgery for a gunshot wound to the abdomen; his life was saved by a bulletproof vest. He also suffered a graze wound to the head.

Sgt. Kevin Thine suffered a laceration to his abdomen and a graze wound to the chin. Burns was shot in the foot.

Jones, a civilian employee of the New Jersey Department of Corrections, had been arrested for stalking the home of a former girlfriend after a caller told police they saw a suspicious man lurking at about 1 a.m.

He was brought back to police headquarters and when his handcuffs were removed for a brief period during processing, he lunged at Burns, knocking her down and taking her weapon, police Chief Harry Earle said.

The suspect "unleashed a barrage of gunfire" at the officers, Earle said. Jones was struck multiple times by return fire and was pronounced dead at the scene, the chief said.

Contract extension averts dockworkers strike -- for now -- at East and Gulf coast ports

NEW YORK (AP) -- Dockworkers along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico agreed Friday to extend their contract for more than a month, averting a weekend strike that could have crippled major ports from Boston to Houston and bottled up billions of dollars’ worth of cargo.

Talks aimed at reaching a new contract covering the 14,500 longshoremen will continue during the extension, which runs through Feb. 6.

The dockworkers’ union and an alliance of port operators and shipping lines agreed to the extension after resolving one of the stickier points in their negotiations, involving royalty payments to longshoremen for each container they unload. Details were not disclosed.

Federal mediator George Cohen said the agreement on royalties was "a major positive step forward."

"While some significant issues remain in contention, I am cautiously optimistic that they can be resolved," he said.

Police say subway push victim was from India, release video
of woman fleeing

NEW YORK (AP) -- The man who was shoved to his death in front of a subway train Thursday night was a 46-year-old from India who lived in New York City and worked for a printing business, police said.

Investigators on Friday searched for an unidentified woman who rose from a bench and suddenly pushed the man in the back with both hands, sending him flying onto the tracks as a train entered an elevated station in Queens.

Police released surveillance video of the woman fleeing the area and have been interviewing witnesses, including some who said she was mumbling and cursing to herself before the attack.

Some witnesses said the man had been shielding himself from the cold by waiting in a stairwell before he ventured out onto the platform to see if the train was coming. They also said he had no interaction with the woman, who immediately darted down the stairway after she pushed him.

One witness told police that the man had no time to try to save himself. The witness turned away to avoid seeing the man getting crushed on the tracks.

With Chavez out of sight, Venezuelans don’t know what to believe about his health

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- He’s getting better. He’s getting worse. He’s already dead. The whole thing is a conspiracy and he was never sick in the first place.

The obsessive, circular conversations about President Hugo Chavez’s health dominate family dinners, plaza chit-chats and social media sites in this country on edge since its larger-than-life leader went to Cuba for emergency cancer surgery more than two weeks ago. The man whose booming voice once dominated the airwaves for hours at a time has not been seen or heard from since.

His lieutenants have consistently assured Venezuelans over the last week that Chavez is slowly on the mend and will be back at the helm of the country he has dominated for 14 years. But when will he be back? Will he be well enough to govern? What type of cancer does he have? Is it terminal? If so, how long does he have to live?

Government officials have not answered any of those questions, leaving Venezuelans to their own speculations. The wildest conspiracy theories run the gamut from those who say there is no proof Chavez is even still alive to those who believe his illness is a made-up play for sympathy.

"Everything has been a mystery. Everyone believes what they want about the status of his health," said Ismael Garcia, a leftist lawmaker who belonged to the Chavez movement until a falling-out a few years ago.

Pakistan’s leading arts college in crisis after paintings outrage Islamic hardliners

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan’s leading arts college has pushed boundaries before in this conservative nation. But when a series of paintings depicting Muslim clerics in scenes with strong homosexual overtones sparked an uproar and threats of violence by Islamic extremists, it was too much.

Officials at the National College of Arts in the eastern city of Lahore shut down its academic journal, which published the paintings, pulled all its issues out of bookstores and dissolved its editorial board. Still, a court is currently considering whether the paintings’ artist, the journal’s board and the school’s head can be charged with blasphemy.

The college’s decision to cave to Islamist pressure underscores how space for progressive thought is shrinking in Pakistan as hardline interpretations of Islam gain ground. It was also a marked change for an institution that has long been one of the leading defenders of liberal views in the country.

Pakistan is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, and the majority of its citizens have long been fairly conservative. But what has grown more pronounced in recent years is the power of religious hardliners to enforce their views on members of the population who disagree, often with the threat of violence.

The government is caught up in a war against a domestic Taliban insurgency and often seems powerless to protect its citizens. At other times it has acquiesced to hardline demands because of fear, political gain or a convergence of beliefs.

Spokesman: Former President George H.W. Bush remains
’in intensive care’

HOUSTON (AP) -- Former President George H.W. Bush remained in intensive care at a Houston hospital on Friday but his condition continues to improve, a spokesman said.

"The President is alert and, as always, in good spirits -- and his exchanges with doctors and nurses now include singing," family spokesman Jim McGrath said in a brief statement.

The 88-year-old Bush, the nation’s oldest living former president, was admitted at Methodist Hospital in Houston on Nov. 23 because of a bronchitis-related cough, after spending about a week there earlier in November for the same condition.

The cough was mostly resolved by the time he was moved to intensive care on Sunday for treatment of a fever that doctors were having difficulty controlling.

"The Bushes thank everyone for their prayers and good wishes and, like their doctors, are cautiously optimistic that the current course of treatment will be effective," McGrath said.

Iran may consider opening military site to UN nuclear watchdog

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- An Iranian official is saying the country may open a controversial military site to inspectors of the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

A Thursday report by independent Mardomsalari daily quotes Deputy Foreign Minister Hasan Qashqavi as saying the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency may visit Parchin military site "if the foreign threats weaken". He did not elaborate.

As high government officials rarely speak out on such sensitive issues, Qashqavi’s remarks were seen as echoing the views of Iran’s leadership.

Earlier this month IAEA inspectors on a trip to Tehran failed to visit Parchin, where they believe Iran has carried out some nuclear experiments.

Iran says Parchin is only a conventional military site and denies the West’s claims its nuclear program has a military dimension.

Iraqi Sunnis demonstrate in Anbar, west of Baghdad

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) -- Witnesses say tens of thousands of Iraqi Sunni Muslims have massed along a major western highway in the latest of a week of large demonstrations against the Shiite-led government.

The protesters gathered Friday near the city of Fallujah, which is in the vast Sunni-dominated province of Anbar west of Baghdad.

Protesters held aloft placards declaring the day a "Friday of honor." Some carried old Iraqi flags used during the era of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein. Others raised current ones.

The demonstrations follow the arrest last week of 10 bodyguards assigned to Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi, who comes from Anbar and is one of the central government’s most senior Sunni officials.

The province has been the scene of several large demonstrations and road blockages since last Saturday.

Badly beaten Indian rape victim dies in Singapore hospital

NEW DELHI (AP) -- Doctors say a young Indian woman who was gang-raped and severely beaten on a bus in New Delhi has died at a Singapore hospital.

A statement by Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth hospital where the 23-year-old victim was being treated said she "died peacefully" early Saturday.

The horrific ordeal of the woman galvanized Indians, who have held almost daily demonstrations to demand greater protection from sexual violence, from groping to rape, that impacts thousands of women every day, but which often goes unreported.

She and a male friend were traveling in a public bus on Dec. 16 evening when they were attacked by six men who raped her and beat them both. They also inserted the rod in her body, stripped both naked and threw them off the bus on a road.

Congress extends foreign surveillance law

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress has voted to renew the government’s authority to monitor electronic communications of foreigners abroad.

It’s a classified program to identify terrorists and spies without getting court orders for each intercept. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act program was on the brink of expiring by year’s end.

But the Senate on Friday approved a five-year extension by a 73-23 vote and sent the bill to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it.

Lawmakers rejected arguments from an unusual combination of Democratic liberals and ideological Republican conservatives. They demanded to know about any Americans whose communications were swept up in the foreign intercepts.

The intelligence community and leaders of the Senate’s intelligence committee say the information is classified and oppose the disclosure.