Saturday March 2, 2013

Gov’t freed more than 2,000 immigrants from jail since Feb., planned 3,000 more

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Homeland Security Department released from its jails more than 2,000 illegal immigrants facing deportation in recent weeks due to looming budget cuts and planned to release 3,000 more during March, The Associated Press has learned.

The newly disclosed figures, cited in internal budget documents reviewed by the AP, are significantly higher than the "few hundred" illegal immigrants the Obama administration acknowledged this week had been released under the budget-savings process.

The government documents show that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement released roughly 1,000 illegal immigrants from its jails around the U.S. each week since at least Feb. 15. The agency’s field offices have reported more than 2,000 immigrants released before intense criticism this week led to a temporary shutdown of the plan, according to the documents.

The states where immigrants were released include Arizona, California, Georgia and Texas.

The White House has said it was not consulted about the releases, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has acknowledged they occurred in a manner she regrets. White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday said the government had released "a few hundred" of the roughly 30,000 illegal immigrants held in federal detention pending deportation proceedings. Carney said the immigrants released were "low-risk, noncriminal detainees," and the decision was made by career ICE officials.

Syrian rebel chief says U.S. food, medical aid won’t help his fighters defeat Assad’s forces

BEIRUT (AP) -- The head of Syria’s rebels said Friday that the food and medical supplies the United States plans to give his fighters for the first time won’t bring them any closer to defeating President Bashar Assad’s forces in the country’s civil war.

"We don’t want food and drink, and we don’t want bandages. When we’re wounded, we want to die. The only thing we want is weapons," Gen. Salim Idris, chief of staff of the opposition’s Supreme Military Council, told The Associated Press by telephone.

The former brigadier in Assad’s army warned that the world’s failure to provide heavier arms is only prolonging the nearly 2-year-old uprising that has killed an estimated 70,000 people.

In what was described as a significant policy shift, the Obama administration said Thursday it was giving an additional $60 million in assistance to Syria’s political opposition and said it would, for the first time, provide non-lethal aid directly to rebels battling to topple Assad.

The move was announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at an international conference on Syria in Rome. In the coming days, several European nations are expected to take similar steps in working with the military wing of the opposition to increase pressure on Assad to step down and pave the way for a democratic transition.

Fla. man swallowed by sinkhole under his bedroom, feared dead

SEFFNER, Fla. (AP) -- A sinkhole 20 feet across and 20 feet deep opened up under a man’s bedroom and swallowed him up without a trace, taking his bed, TV set and dresser, too, as he screamed for help.

Jeff Bush, 37, was presumed dead after the concrete floor caved in about 11 p.m. Thursday as everyone in the house was turning in for the night. It gave way with a loud crash that brought his brother running.

Jeremy Bush said he jumped into the hole but couldn’t see his brother and had to be rescued himself by a sheriff’s deputy who reached out and pulled him to safety as the ground crumbled around him.

"The floor was still giving in and the dirt was still going down, but I didn’t care. I wanted to save my brother," Jeremy Bush, 36, said through tears Friday in a neighbor’s yard. "But I just couldn’t do nothing."

He added: "I could swear I heard him hollering my name to help him."

SpaceX company appears to fix capsule problem; arrival at space station delayed

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- A commercial craft carrying a ton of supplies for the International Space Station ran into thruster trouble shortly after liftoff Friday. Flight controllers managed to gain control, but were forced to delay its arrival at the orbiting lab.

The earliest the Dragon capsule could show up is Sunday, a full day late, said top officials for NASA and the private company SpaceX.

"We’re definitely not going to rush it," said SpaceX’s billionaire founder Elon Musk. "We want to make sure first and foremost that things are safe before proceeding."

The Dragon, owned and operated by SpaceX, holds considerable science experiments for the International Space Station as well as food and spare parts.

Musk said six hours into the flight that all four sets of thrusters finally were working properly. "All systems green," he reported via Twitter. The problem might have been caused by a stuck valve or line blockage. The thrusters are small rockets used for maneuvering the capsule.

California’s governor reverses parole board, rejects release of former Manson follower

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday reversed a parole board and denied the release of a former Charles Manson follower who has served more than 40 years in prison.

The board had recently approved the release of 70-year-old Bruce Davis but left the final decision to the governor.

Brown gave his decision to The Associated Press at the downtown Los Angeles County courthouse after a meeting with District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who had recommended that Davis not be paroled.

"I find the evidence ... shows why he currently poses a danger to society if released from prison. Therefore, I reverse the decision to parole Mr. Davis," the written decision said.

Davis would have been only the second Manson-related murder defendant to be granted parole since the killing spree began in 1969.

No ‘Jedi mind-meld’ for Obama with GOP; too star-struck to sort ‘Star Wars’ from ‘Star Trek’?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- He’s not a dictator and won’t entertain the idea of a "Jedi mind-meld" with opponents. There’s no "secret formula or special sauce" he can slip foes to make them see things his way. And not to worry, he says, the situation may look dire but won’t be an "apocalypse."

So who was the guy in a suit and tie who showed up Friday in the White House briefing room, mixing metaphors and references to "Star Wars" and "Star Trek"?

"I am not a dictator. I’m the president," Barack Obama declared as he rejected the idea of using Secret Service agents to keep lawmakers from leaving until everyone agreed on a budget. He answered reporters’ questions shortly after an inconclusive, 52-minute meeting with the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate.

"So ultimately, if (Senate Minority leader) Mitch McConnell or (House Speaker) John Boehner say, ‘We need to go to catch a plane,’ I can’t have Secret Service block the doorway. Right?"

Even if he did bar his office -- the oval one -- Obama said he wouldn’t do a "Jedi mind-meld" with Congress’ top two Republicans to persuade them "to do what’s right."

Atlanta woman files lawsuit claiming Michael Jordan fathered her son

ATLANTA (AP) -- An Atlanta woman has filed a lawsuit saying basketball Hall of Famer and Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan is the father of her teenage son.

The lawsuit was filed Feb. 6 by Pamela Smith in Fulton County Superior Court. It requests Jordan take a paternity test, pay child support and share medical, dental and hospital costs that are not covered by insurance.

The lawsuit also requests the boy’s last name be changed to Jordan, and for a judge to order the Georgia Department of Vital Records to issue him a new birth certificate.

Publicist Estee Portnoy says Jordan has no comment and calls to Smith’s home and office were not immediately returned Friday afternoon.

According to court documents, Smith does not have an attorney and a court date is scheduled for March 12.

Bonnie Franklin, single mom on sitcom ‘One Day At a Time,’ dies at age 69

NEW YORK (AP) -- Bonnie Franklin, the pert, redheaded actress whom millions came to identify with for her role as divorced mom Ann Romano on the long-running sitcom "One Day at a Time," has died.

She died Friday at her home in Los Angeles due to complications from pancreatic cancer, family members said. She was 69. Her family had announced she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September.

Franklin was a veteran stage and television performer before "One Day At a Time" made her a star.

Developed by Norman Lear and co-created by Whitney Blake -- herself a former sitcom star and single mother raising future actress Meredith Baxter -- the series was groundbreaking for its focus on a young divorced mother seeking independence from a suffocating marriage.

It premiered on CBS in December 1975, just five years after the network had balked at having Mary Tyler Moore play a divorced woman on her own comedy series, insisting that newly single Mary Richards be portrayed as having ended her engagement instead.