Saturday May 18, 2013

Hagel orders military to recertify all who have roles in sexual abuse prevention programs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday ordered the military to recertify all 25,000 people involved in programs designed to prevent and respond to sexual assault, an acknowledgement that assaults have escalated beyond the Pentagon’s control.

He said this step, which also applies to the military’s approximately 19,000 recruiters and must be completed by July 1, is one among many that will be taken to fix the problem of sexual abuse and sexual harassment within every branch of the military.

At a news conference with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hagel said he believes alcohol use is "a very big factor" in many sexual assault and sexual harassment cases, but there are many pieces to the problem.

He and Dempsey spoke one day after all of the military’s leadership were summoned to the White House to discuss the sexual assault problem with President Barack Obama, who has expressed impatience with the Pentagon’s failure to solve it.

At his Pentagon news conference, Hagel said it has become clear to him since taking office in February that holding people accountable for their actions is important, but simply firing people is not a solution. He said he gets a lot of advice on that.

Arrests in New Orleans parade shootings hailed as progress against culture of violence

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Days after bursts of gunfire brought a chaotic and bloody end to a Mother’s Day neighborhood parade in New Orleans, news of now seven arrests gave an organizer of the traditional event reason to celebrate again.

"I’m just ecstatic," Edward Buckner, president of the Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club, said Thursday.

Two brothers were booked with 20 counts each of attempted second-degree murder in Sunday’s shooting spree in which 19 people were struck by bullets and one was injured while fleeing. Authorities said three people remain in critical condition.

Akein Scott, 19, was captured Wednesday night. A $10 million bond was set for him in the shooting case Thursday and he was ordered held without bond, pending another hearing on an unrelated gun and weapon charge. His brother, Shawn Scott, 24, was arrested Thursday morning. The district attorney’s office had said Shawn Scott would make an initial court appearance Friday, but court records show bond was set at $10 million for him in a hearing Thursday evening. An additional $91,000 in bond was added for other drug and weapon charges.

Five others were accused of helping suspects avoid capture. They are charged with being accessories after the fact to attempted second-degree murder and obstruction of justice, police said. The latest arrested Friday on that charge was 19-year-old Monique Pepe. Police say she allowed Shawn Scott to hide at her house.

A year after IPO, stock still stagnant, Facebook looks to become an advertising giant

NEW YORK (AP) -- It was supposed to be our IPO, the people’s public offering.

Facebook, the brainchild of a young CEO who sauntered into Wall Street meetings in a hoodie, was going to be bigger than Amazon, bigger than McDonald’s, bigger than Coca-Cola. And it was all made possible by our friendships, photos and family ties.

Then came the IPO, and it flopped. Facebook’s stock finished its first day of trading just 23 cents higher than its $38 IPO price. It hasn’t been that high since.

Even amid the hype and excitement surrounding Facebook’s May 18 stock market debut a year ago, there were looming doubts. Investors wondered whether the social network could increase advertising revenue without alienating users, especially those using smartphones and tablet computers.

The worries intensified just days before the IPO when General Motors said it would stop paying for advertisements on the site. The symbolic exit cast a shroud over Facebook that still exists. Facebook’s market value is $63 billion, some two-thirds of what it was the morning it first began trading. At around $27 per share, the company’s stock is down roughly 30 percent from its IPO price. Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index is up 27 percent over the same period.

Coffee run leads to arrest for hatchet-wielding hitchhiker wanted in N.J. killing

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) -- A hitchhiker who became an online sensation but was arrested Thursday in a New Jersey man’s beating death has been arraigned in Philadelphia.

Caleb "Kai" McGillvary is charged with killing 73-year-old Joseph Galfy Jr. He was arrested in Philadelphia on Thursday night.

Authorities say the two met in New York City on Saturday and went to Galfy’s suburban home. Galfy was found dead there Monday, wearing only underwear and socks.

McGillvary was arraigned via video Friday. A court official says he is being held without bail and has a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detainer for three arrests in Canada in recent years.

McGillvary became known as "Kai the hatchet wielding hitchhiker" after intervening in a February attack in California and giving an interview that was viewed millions of times online.

Venezuela’s military enters high-crime slums as rights activists warn of potential for abuses

PETARE, Venezuela (AP) -- Stern-looking soldiers clutching assault rifles wave down the beat-up Chevy Caprice entering this sprawling slum on the outskirts of Caracas.

Flashlights in his face, the driver steps out and places his hands on the roof while the soldiers frisk him for drugs and weapons.

He’s clean, and a hand gesture from the commanding officer sends him off into the maze of ramshackle homes that is Petare, one of the most dangerous parts of Venezuela’s notoriously crime-infested capital.

Since Monday, this scene is playing out day and night at dozens of military checkpoints set up here in the socialist government’s latest attempt to control the oil-rich country’s pandemic of violence.

Critics dismiss the "Secure Homeland" initiative as a political charade that risks degenerating into human rights abuses while having no lasting impact on crime. But to many residents, weary of being terrorized by armed gangs, seeing troops on the streets is a welcome projection of government power.

Star witness: Showgirl dressed as Obama
at Berlusconi
’bunga bunga’ party

MILAN (AP) -- Silvio Berlusconi’s private disco featured not only aspiring showgirls performing striptease acts as sexy nuns and nurses, but one woman dressed up as President Barack Obama and a prominent Milan prosecutor whom the billionaire media mogul has accused of persecuting him, according to the first public sworn testimony by the Moroccan woman at the center of the scandal.

Karima el-Mahroug’s testimony Friday at the trial of three former Berlusconi aides accused with procuring her and other women for prostitution confirms a sexually charged atmosphere at the "bunga bunga" parties of the then-sitting premier. The trial is separate from the one in which Berlusconi is charged with paying for sex with a minor -- el-Mahroug when she was 17 -- and trying to cover it up.

El-Mahroug, now 20, said she attended about a half-dozen parties, using her nickname Ruby, and that after each, Berlusconi handed her an envelope with up to 3,000 euros ($3,900) in denominations of 500. She said she later received 30,000 euros cash from the then-premier paid through an intermediary -- money that she told Berlusconi she wanted to use to open a beautician salon despite having no formal training.

But she denied that Berlusconi had ever given her 5 million euros ($6.43 million). She said she told acquaintances and even her father that she was going to receive such a large sum "as a boast," but that it was a lie to make her seem more important.

The three Berlusconi aides -- Emilio Fede, an executive in Berlusconi’s media empire; Nicole Minetti, a former dental hygienist, showgirl and local politician, and talent agent Dario "Lele" Mora -- are accused of recruiting women for prostitution at the parties and abetting prostitution, including of a minor. They deny the charges.

N.M. mom credits ‘mother’s instincts’ in chase of 4-year-old daughter’s abductor

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- A mother who chased down an abductor and ran into his car after he grabbed her 4-year-old said Friday her "mother’s instincts" kicked in when she launched her pursuit.

Melissa Torrez told The Associated Press that she began her chase "without any feeling" as soon as other children in the Albuquerque apartment complex told her a man took her daughter late Wednesday afternoon.

"My mind went black. I grabbed my keys," said the 27-year-old mother of three. "I just got in my car and I ...went looking for her."

Torrez said she remained only focused on getting her daughter back and quickly drove around the complex as teenagers chased the suspected abductor, later identified by police as 31-year-old David Hernandez. The teenagers pointed out his whereabouts, she said.

Torrez said she eventually found a man in a brown Buick who led her on a high-speed chase throughout Albuquerque. "I went after it," she said. "I just followed him."