Monday May 13, 2013

17 wounded at New Orleans Mother’s Day second-line parade shooting

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- New Orleans police say 17 people have been wounded in a shooting during a Mother’s Day parade in New Orleans on Sunday.

Police spokeswoman Remi Braden said in an email that many of the 17 victims were grazed and most of the wounds weren’t life-threatening. No deaths were reported.

Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas told reporters that a 10-year-old girl grazed by a bullet was among those wounded in the shooting around 2 p.m. She was in good condition. He said three or four people were in surgery, but he didn’t have their conditions.

Officers were interspersed among the hundreds of marchers, which is routine for an event like it.

Second-line parades are loose processions in which people dance down the street, often following behind a brass band.

Veteran diplomat says Benghazi review was thorough, defends report amid inquiry

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The seasoned diplomat who penned a highly critical report on security at a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, defended his scathing assessment but absolved then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. "We knew where the responsibility rested," Thomas Pickering said Sunday.

"They’ve tried to point a finger at people more senior than where we found the decisions were made," Pickering, whose career spans four decades, said of Clinton’s critics.

The Accountability Review Board, which Pickering headed with retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not question Clinton at length about the attacks but concluded last December that the decisions about the consulate were made well below the secretary’s level.

Pickering and Mullen’s blistering report found that "systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels" of the State Department meant that security was "inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place."

Pickering’s defense of his panel’s conclusions, however, failed to placate Republicans who have called for creation of a special select congressional committee to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

3 women found in Cleveland house ask for privacy to reconnect with families

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The three women allegedly imprisoned and sexually abused for years inside a padlocked Cleveland house asked for privacy Sunday, saying through an attorney that while they are grateful for overwhelming support, they also need time to heal.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight remain in seclusion, releasing their first statements since they were found May 6 when Berry escaped and told a 911 dispatcher, "I’m free now."

They thanked law enforcement and said they were grateful for the support of family and the community.

"I am so happy to be home, and I want to thank everybody for all your prayers," DeJesus said in a statement read by an attorney. "I just want time now to be with my family."

The women, now in their 20s and 30s, vanished separately between 2002 and 2004. At the time, they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.

Mother of boy arrested in sister’s stabbing death says he would never hurt the girl

VALLEY SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) -- The mother of an 8-year-old girl who was found stabbed to death in her Northern California home and of the 12-year-old boy accused of killing describes the boy as "protective of his sister."

In an interview with Sacramento television station KOVR on Friday, Priscilla Rodriquez said her son "could never hurt his sister."

The boy -- who has not been named by authorities -- was arrested Saturday. He will be charged with homicide, Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz said.

In the interview, Rodriquez said, "I know my son could never hurt his sister.

"They never used to fight when they were little," she said.

Bodies of woman,
13-year-old son found after N.J. standoff; boyfriend killed

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Police stormed a New Jersey home early Sunday and fatally shot a registered sex offender who had held his girlfriend’s three children hostage, ending their 37-hour ordeal and recovering the bodies of the captives’ mother and another sibling, authorities said.

Officers initially went to the South Trenton home Friday afternoon after a relative of 44-year-old Carmelita Stevens said she hadn’t spoken to her in weeks and was worried, authorities said at a news conference Sunday. Upon further investigation, authorities then discovered her children hadn’t been to school in 12 days.

Police entered the home through a rear door and smelled an odor consistent with that of a decomposing body, Trenton Police Director Ralph Rivera Jr. said. The officers also noticed maggots throughout the residence.

They found 38-year-old Gerald "Skip" Tyrone Murphy in an upstairs bedroom and he told them he was armed with a gun and explosives and had three children with him, Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini Jr. said. Officers noticed one of the dead victims before they retreated from the second floor and rescued Stevens’ 19-year-old son from the basement, who said he hadn’t seen her or his siblings since about April 24.

Homes on the surrounding block were evacuated as a precaution, and police tape cordoned off the street in front of the house. A SWAT team was called, and an arson bomb unit was also on the scene. Police said Murphy could be seen from a window holding a black handgun.

Ginsburg: Roe v. Wade too sweeping, gave opponents target to ‘aim at relentlessly’

CHICAGO (AP) -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she supports a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, but feels her predecessors’ landmark Roe v. Wade ruling 40 years ago was too sweeping and gave abortion opponents a symbol to target.

Ginsburg, one of the most liberal members of the nation’s high court, spoke Saturday at the University of Chicago Law School. Ever since the decision, she said, momentum has been on abortion opponents’ side, fueling a state-by-state campaign that has placed more restrictions on abortion.

"That was my concern, that the court had given opponents of access to abortion a target to aim at relentlessly," she told a crowd of students. "... My criticism of Roe is that it seemed to have stopped the momentum that was on the side of change."

The ruling is also a disappointment to a degree, Ginsburg said, because it was not argued in weighty terms of advancing women’s rights. Rather, the Roe opinion, written by Justice Harry Blackmun, centered on the right to privacy and asserted that it extended to a woman’s decision on whether to end a pregnancy.

Four decades later, abortion is one of the most polarizing issues in American life, and anti-abortion activists have pushed legislation at the state level in an effort to scale back the 1973 decision. This year, governors in North Dakota and Arkansas signed strict new abortion laws, including North Dakota’s ban on abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Strong election victory could make it easier for Pakistan’s Sharif to tackle problems

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) -- Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif looked poised Sunday to return to office with a resounding election victory -- a mandate that could make it easier to tackle the country’s daunting problems, including growing power outages, weak economic growth and shaky government finances.

Questions remain, however, about Sharif’s stance on another key issue: violent Islamic extremism. Critics have accused his party of being soft on radicals because it hasn’t cracked down on militant groups in its stronghold of Punjab province.

That could be a concern for the United States, which has pushed Pakistan for years to take stronger action against a variety of Islamic militant groups, especially fighters staging cross-border attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.

As unofficial returns rolled in Sunday, a day after the election, state TV estimates put Sharif close to the majority in the national assembly needed to govern outright for the next five years. Even if he falls short of that threshold, independent candidates almost certain to swing in Sharif’s favor would give his Pakistan Muslim League-N party a ruling majority.

That would put the 63-year-old Sharif in a much stronger position than the outgoing Pakistan People’s Party, which ruled for five years with a weak coalition that was often on the verge of collapse.

In Mideast version of ‘American Idol,’ region’s troubles, Syria war often commandeer the stage

BEIRUT (AP) -- TV singing contests around the world tend to serve up light, glitzy entertainment with a dash of emotional drama. But in the Middle East’s version of "American Idol," it’s the region’s troubles that often take center stage.

Two contestants are from civil war-ravaged Syria, including a singer-composer whose bus was ambushed by gunmen en route to her audition and a music student who brought judges to tears with a song lamenting the devastation of his hometown of Aleppo. A performer from the Gaza Strip has become an audience favorite for singing about the plights of Palestinians under Israeli rule.

"The show has become a platform for Arab Spring youth to express themselves artistically and show the region that there’s hope for the future," said Mazen Hayek, the spokesman for the Dubai-based, Saudi-owned MBC Group that broadcasts "Arab Idol" from a studio in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

The show’s producers say political expression is allowed. But in a region where tribal, religious and political affiliations often define identity, performers walk a fine line -- especially in a contest where winning is based on popularity.

"It’s live and people around the region, and Arabs around the world, follow it in real time, posting praise or criticism on Twitter and Facebook, before they even vote for their favorites," Hayek said.