Thursday May 9, 2013

Cleveland man charged with kidnapping, raping 3 women; no charges brought against his brothers

CLEVELAND (AP) -- A Cleveland man arrested after three women missing for a decade were found alive at his home was charged Wednesday with kidnapping and raping them. Prosecutors brought no charges against his brothers, saying there was no evidence they had any part in the crime.

Ariel Castro, 52, was charged with four counts of kidnapping -- covering all three captives and the daughter born to one of them while she was held -- and three counts of rape against the three women. The former school bus driver owns the peeling, run-down home where the women were rescued on Monday, after one of them broke through a screen door.

At a news conference, authorities gave few details on the women’s ordeal. But police said earlier in the day that they were apparently bound with ropes and chains, and a city councilman briefed on the case, Brian Cummins, said that they were subjected to prolonged sexual and psychological abuse and suffered miscarriages.

Cummins also said the women were kept in the basement for some time.

"We know that the victims have confirmed miscarriages, but with who, how many and what conditions we don’t know," he said. He added: "It sounds pretty gruesome."

Freeing captives just part
of Ramsey’s work in becoming media star

NEW YORK (AP) -- Helping to free three women from nearly a decade in captivity would seem to be enough. Hero neighbor Charles Ramsey has also become a star, offering moments of levity in an unspeakably horrible story, free publicity for a restaurant chain and unexpected lessons in race relations.

Ramsey lived next door to where Ariel Castro is alleged to have kept the women in his makeshift prison until Monday afternoon, when Ramsey happened to be home and heard Amanda Berry’s scream.

Or let him tell it: "I got the day off from work, so naturally you’re doing nothing."

Actually, he was "eating my McDonald’s," a fact he trumpeted so frequently that the grateful food giant is trying to get in touch with him. A website that compiled some of Ramsey’s television interviews kept count of how many times he mentioned McDonald’s in each.

Ramsey, 43, gave a series of interviews to Cleveland television stations as the story broke Monday night that were replayed on national news. CNN’s Anderson Cooper tracked him down for a lengthy conversation the next night. The interviews are performance art masterpieces, so filled with colorful language and astute reporting that he trended on Twitter and was the subject of Internet memes and an Auto-tuned song.

Former U.S. official in Tripoli describes confusion, call with Clinton during Benghazi attack

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A former top diplomat in Libya on Wednesday delivered a riveting minute-by-minute account of the chaotic events during the deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi last September, with a 2 a.m. call from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and confusion about the fate of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

In a slow, halting and sometimes emotional voice, Gregory Hicks, the deputy chief of mission who was in Tripoli, described for a House committee how a routine day on Sept. 11, 2012, quickly devolved as insurgents launched two nighttime attacks on the facility in eastern Libya, killing Stevens and three other Americans.

The hours-long hearing produced no major revelation while reviving disputes over the widely debunked comments made by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice five days after the attacks and the inability of the U.S. military to respond quickly.

"I don’t think there’s a smoking gun today. I don’t think there’s a lukewarm slingshot," said Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis.

The session exposed bitter partisan divisions as Republicans who are pressing ahead with the investigation eight months after the attacks insist the Obama administration is covering up information and Democrats decry politicization of a national security issue.

Syrian state media blames countrywide Internet outage on problem with fiber optics cable

BEIRUT (AP) -- A problem with a fiber optics cable was responsible for an Internet outage that cut off civil war-ravaged Syria from the rest of the world for nearly 20 hours, state media said Wednesday.

Internet service stopped abruptly Tuesday evening, prompting speculation that the regime had pulled the plug, possibly as a cover for military action. However, no large-scale military offensives were reported Wednesday and the opposition did not accuse the regime of sabotage.

In the past, the regime halted Internet service in selected areas during government offensives to disrupt communication among rebel fighters. The last nationwide outage, for two days in November, coincided with a major military operation near the capital, Damascus, and its international airport.

A U.S.-based Web watcher said the problem would have to occur somewhere inside Syria for the entire country to be affected, although it was impossible to tell from a distance exactly what happened.

Jim Cowie of Renesys, a company that monitors online traffic, said Syria is serviced by three underwater cables, but a problem in one of those would not be sufficient to cut off Internet nationwide.

Italy crews search for missing after cargo ship slams into Genoa port, killing at least 7

ROME (AP) -- Italian prosecutors placed the captain of the Jolly Nero cargo ship under investigation Wednesday for alleged manslaughter after his vessel slammed into the dock at Genoa’s busy port and toppled the control tower into the harbor, killing at least seven people.

As rescue teams in diving suits searched for two other missing people, officials began piecing together how the 40,000-ton container ship could have sideswiped the port’s control tower when weather and sea conditions were "perfect" on Tuesday night. The focus was on whether human error or a technical malfunction was to blame.

The crash occurred around 11 p.m. as the Jolly Nero was backing out of Genoa’s port accompanied by two tugboats and with a harbor pilot on its bridge. At the same time, a shift change was taking place among employees at the control tower, meaning more people were in the building than usual.

"This event is unbelievable because we had the best weather navigation conditions," said Luigi Merlo, president of Genoa’s port authority.

Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi told Parliament that given the "perfect" weather conditions, possible causes of the crash could include an engine malfunction or problems with the cables between the container ship and the tugs guiding it. He said investigators -- both criminal and from his own ministry -- were also looking into possible mistakes with the maneuver itself or with the speed in which the ship backed out of its berth and turned around to leave the port.

Utah teen charged with homicide by assault in death of soccer referee who died after punch

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Utah teen accused of punching a soccer referee who later died was charged Wednesday with homicide by assault, a count issued when an attack unintentionally causes death.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill also said he will seek to try the teen as an adult in the death of 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo.

The charge is less serious than manslaughter. It carries a possible sentence of up to five years in prison for adults, but penalties can be less for juveniles.

Gill said it became clear in looking at the facts that the teenager’s actions didn’t amount to murder or manslaughter.

"We did not believe we could demonstrate the premeditation or intent to justify those charges," Gill told The Associated Press. "Those other charges require another type of mental state. We did not believe that type of mental state was present."

Senate group pushes new round of Iran sanctions

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A bipartisan group of senators are pushing for a new round of penalties on Iran, determined to cripple the regime’s economy and thwart any nuclear ambitions.

The legislation unveiled on Wednesday would essentially penalize any financial institution around the world that helps Iran in a non-local currency. It would block Tehran’s access to foreign exchange reserves and limit its ability to deal in foreign currencies, including euros.

Backing the measure are Republican Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Susan Collins of Maine and John Cornyn of Texas and Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bill Nelson of Florida.

The group says the Iranian government, including the Central Bank of Iran, has accounts worldwide with foreign exchange reserves. Iran often converts them into local currencies for imports and other financial dealings.

Wrigley stopping sales of caffeinated gum as FDA investigates safety

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wrigley says it is taking a new caffeinated gum off the market temporarily as the Food and Drug Administration investigates the safety of added caffeine.

The company said Wednesday that it has stopped new sales and marketing of Alert Energy Caffeine Gum "out of respect" for the agency, which said it would investigate the health effects of added caffeine in foods just as Wrigley rolled out Alert late last month. A stick of the gum is equivalent to half a cup of coffee.

"After discussions with the FDA, we have a greater appreciation for its concern about the proliferation of caffeine in the nation’s food supply," said Wrigley North America President Casey Keller in a statement to The Associated Press. "There is a need for changes in the regulatory framework to better guide the consumers and the industry about the appropriate level and use of caffeinated products."

Keller said the company has paused production and sales of the gum to give the agency time to regulate caffeine-added products.

Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner of foods, said Wrigley’s decision to stop production for now "demonstrates real leadership and commitment to the public health." He said the company made the move after a series of discussions with the agency.