Friday May 17, 2013

Afghan woman recounts how U.S. soldier killed her husband in rampage

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) -- Sitting on a dirty straw mat on the parched ground of southern Afghanistan, Masooma sank deeper inside a giant black shawl. Hidden from view, her words burst forth as she told her side of what happened to her family sometime before dawn on March 11, 2012.

According to Masooma, an American soldier wearing a helmet equipped with a flashlight burst into her two-room mud home while everyone slept. He killed her husband, Dawood, punched her 7-year-old son and shoved a pistol into the mouth of his baby brother.

"We were asleep. He came in and he was shouting, saying something about Taliban, Taliban, and then he pulled my husband up. I screamed and screamed and said, ‘We are not Taliban, we are not government. We are no one. Please don’t hurt us,"’ she said.

The soldier wasn’t listening. He pointed his pistol at Masooma to quiet her and pushed her husband into the living room.

"My husband just looked back at me and said, ‘I will be back."’ Seconds later she heard gunshots, she recalled, her voice cracking as she was momentarily unable to speak. Her husband was dead.

North Texas walloped by system carrying 10 tornadoes, 1 likely had winds up to 200 mph

GRANBURY, Texas (AP) -- Ten tornadoes touched down in several small communities in North Texas overnight, leaving at least six people dead, dozens injured and hundreds homeless.


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Emergency responders were still searching for missing people Thursday afternoon.

The National Weather Service gave a preliminary estimate of Wednesday night’s violent system, saying a tornado in Granbury had wind speeds between 166 mph and 200 mph. Other tornadoes damaged nearby Cleburne and Millsap.

Granbury, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth, bore the brunt of the damage, as the exceptionally powerful tornado tore through two neighborhoods around 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Resident Elizabeth Tovar said fist-sized hail heralded the tornado’s arrival and prompted her and her family to hide in their bathroom.

"We were all, like, hugging in the bathtub and that’s when it started happening. I heard glass shattering and I knew my house was going," Tovar said, shaking her head. "We looked up and ... the whole ceiling was gone."

Justice Dept. didn’t provide names of some terrorists in witness protection program

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government has allowed terrorists into America’s witness protection program and has failed to provide the names of some of them for the watch list that’s used to keep dangerous people off airline flights, the Justice Department’s inspector general says.

As a result of the department’s failure to share information with the Terrorist Screening Center, some in the witness protection program who were on a "no-fly" list were allowed to travel on commercial flights, the department’s watchdog said.

The FBI-managed screening center is the clearinghouse for information about known or suspected terrorists.

In a briefing for reporters Thursday, the Justice Department said it has remedied the problem with a restrictive travel policy that prohibits program participants with no-fly status from traveling on commercial flights. The department declined to say how many people in the program actually flew.

While people involved in terrorism cases have long been eligible for federal witness protection, the Justice Department wouldn’t say how many have been in the program. The inspector general’s report said it was "a small but significant number."

Interior issues new rule for oil and gas drilling on public land

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands will be required to disclose publicly the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations, the Obama administration said Thursday. The new "fracking" rule replaces a draft proposed last year that was withdrawn amid industry complaints that federal regulation could hinder an ongoing boom in natural gas production.

The new draft rule relies on an online database used by Colorado and 10 other states to track the chemicals used in fracking operations. FracFocus.org is a website formed by industry and intergovernmental groups in 2011 that allows users to gather well-specific data on thousands of drilling sites.

The proposed rule also sets standards for proper construction of wells and disposal of wastewater.

Fracking involves pumping huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rocks to allow oil and gas to flow. Improved technology has allowed energy companies to gain access to huge stores of natural gas underneath states from Wyoming to New York but has raised widespread concerns about alleged groundwater contamination and even earthquakes.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell called the proposed rule a "common-sense update" that increases safety while also providing flexibility and improving coordination with states and Indian tribes.

Tech industry, big labor wrangle over high-tech jobs for foreigners

WASHINGTON (AP) -- To the U.S. technology industry, there’s a dramatic shortfall in the number of Americans skilled in computer programming and engineering that is hampering business. To unions and some Democrats, it’s more sinister: The push by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to expand the number of visas for high-tech foreign workers is an attempt to dilute a lucrative job market with cheap, indentured labor.

The answer is somewhere in between, depending as much on new technologies and the U.S. education system’s ability to keep up as on the immigration law itself. But the sliver of computer-related jobs inside the U.S. that might be designated for foreigners -- fewer than 200,000 out of 6 million -- has been enough to strain a bipartisan deal in the Senate on immigration reform, showcase the power of big labor and splinter a once-chummy group of elite tech leaders hoping to make inroads in Washington.

"A lot of people agree that employers should have access to (highly trained) immigrants -- that they are a benefit to the country, and we are a country of immigrants," said B. Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of International Migration. "I think the question is how much of a good thing is good."

The Senate immigration bill -- the result of months of quiet negotiations among eight influential senators -- is on track to nearly double the number of highly skilled foreign workers allowed to work in the U.S. under what’s called an H-1B visa, from 65,000 to 110,000. The number of visas could climb as high as 180,000 depending on the number of applications received and the unemployment rate.

The Senate Judiciary Committee had planned to take up the portion of the bill relating to H-1B visas on Thursday, paving the way for an eventual floor vote and setting the tone for debate in the House. But the committee postponed action until next week as negotiations take place behind the scenes.

American Airlines to let passengers with just a personal carry-on item board sooner

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- If you’re traveling light, you can board earlier on American Airlines.

The airline said Thursday that people carrying just a personal item that fits under the seat -- no rolling suitcases -- will be allowed to board before most other passengers.

American said that the change will speed up the boarding process and allow flights to take off sooner, helping the airline improve its on-time performance.

Airlines have been seeing a buildup in boarding times since they began charging fees for checked baggage as more people fight for limited space in overhead bins.

American tested the new boarding procedure at several airports earlier this year and began applying it to all flights Thursday. Passengers carrying just a personal item -- a purse, backpack or computer bag that will fit under the seat -- will board right after Group 1 premium passengers and before boarding groups 2, 3 and 4.

Jurors in Jodi Arias trial brought to tears as victim’s family describes effect of his murder

PHOENIX (AP) -- Jurors deciding the fate of convicted murderer Jodi Arias were brought to tears Thursday, visibly shaken by dramatic statements from the victim’s family members as they described how their lives were ripped apart by the killing.

Travis Alexander’s younger brother Steven told the panel he was hospitalized for ulcers, lost sleep and separated from his wife.

He paused to choke back tears and regain his composure as he recounted the phone call he got from his sister the day his brother’s body was found.

"She told me, ‘Steven, Travis is dead,"’ he said. "I thought I was dreaming."

Steven Alexander described how his brother had survived motorcycle and car crashes and seemed to be "bulletproof."

A mockumentary is wrapped as NBC’s ‘The Office’ shuts down Thursday after 8 comic years

NEW YORK (AP) -- As "The Office" airs its series finale after eight years on NBC, the time feels right to salute the show that spawned it.

I’m talking, of course, about the BBC-produced, British version of "The Office," starring a previously unknown scamp named Ricky Gervais, who also served as its co-creator, -writer and -director.

For viewers who stumbled on that scruffy, off-kilter little comedy way back in 2001, "The Office" was a sensation and its doughy leading man someone clearly worth watching.

Soon it gave rise to the NBC version, which premiered in March 2005 and concludes Thursday at 9 p.m. EDT with a 75-minute finale that will gather the cast along with guest stars, past regulars and maybe even Steve Carell (the network isn’t saying for sure), who left as series lead two seasons ago.

Transplanting "The Office" to American soil was an exacting business.