Mandela memorial fake sign language interpreter reportedly faced murder charge
a decade ago
JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- South Africa’s government was confronted Friday with a new and chilling allegation about the bogus sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial: He was reportedly accused of murder 10 years ago.
Officials said they were investigating the revelation by the national eNCA TV news station. But they were unable, or unwilling, to explain why a man who says he is schizophrenic with violent tendencies was allowed to get within arm’s length of President Barack Obama and other world leaders.
Investigators probing Thamsanqa Jantjie "will compile a comprehensive report," said Phumla Williams, the top government spokeswoman. But she did not say how long the investigation would take and insisted details would not be released until it was completed.
"We are not going to sweep it under the carpet," Williams said. "We want to own up if there is a mistake, but we don’t want to be dishonest" to Jantjie.
An Associated Press reporter found Jantjie at a makeshift bar owned by his cousin on the outskirts of Soweto Friday, near his concrete house close to shacks and an illegal dump where goats pick at grass between the trash. Asked about the murder allegation, Jantjie turned and walked away without saying anything.
Kansas airport worker arrested in plot to bomb Wichita airport to support al-Qaida
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- A Kansas man was arrested Friday on charges that he planned to set off a car bomb at the Wichita airport in an attack intended to support al-Qaida, authorities said.
Terry Lee Loewen, a 58-year-old avionics technician who worked at the airport, was arrested before dawn as tried to enter the tarmac in a vehicle he believed was loaded with high explosives.
But the materials in the car were inert, and no one at the airport was in any immediate danger, authorities said.
Loewen, who lives in Wichita, had been under investigation for about six months after making online statements to an undercover agent about wanting to commit "violent jihad" against the United States, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.
Authorities said Loewen spent months studying the layout of the Mid-Continent Regional Airport, its flight patterns and other details to maximize fatalities and damage. During that time, he developed a plan with other conspirators to use his employee access card to pull off the attack. The conspirators were actually undercover FBI agents.
Pressure on administration to find CIA contractor who disappeared in Iran
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration faced intensified pressure Friday to find former CIA contractor Robert Levinson -- both from lawmakers and the Levinson family -- nearly seven years after he disappeared in Iran during what now has been revealed as an unofficial spy mission.
Levinson’s family urged the government "to step up and take care of one of its own." Members of Congress said they wanted to know more about the case, which led to three veteran analysts being forced out of the agency and seven others being disciplined.
Levinson vanished after a March 2007 meeting with an admitted killer on Kish Island, an Iranian resort. For years, the U.S. publicly described him as a private citizen who traveled to the tiny Persian Gulf island on business. But an Associated Press investigation revealed that Levinson actually was a contractor working for the CIA, and was paid by a team of agency analysts who were acting without authority to run spy operations to gather intelligence.
If he is still alive at age 65, Levinson has been captive longer than any other American known to be held overseas.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Levinson, who retired after 28 years at the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, was not a U.S. employee at the time of his disappearance.
More purges could follow in NKorea after execution of leader’s once-powerful uncle
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- The execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle brought a swift and violent end to a man long considered the country’s second most powerful figure. But while Jang Song Thaek is now gone, the fallout from his purge is not over.
In a stunning reversal of the popular image of Jang as a mentor and father figure guiding young Kim Jong Un as he consolidated power, North Korea’s state-run media announced Friday he had been executed, portraying him as a morally corrupt traitor who saw the death of Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, in December 2011 as an opportunity to make his own power play.
Experts who study the authoritarian country, which closely guards its internal workings from both outsiders and citizens, were divided on whether the sudden turn of events reflected turmoil within the highest levels of power or signaled that Kim Jong Un was consolidating his power in a decisive show of strength. Either way, the purge is an unsettling development for a world that is already wary of Kim’s unpredictability amid North Korea’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons.
"If he has to go as high as purging and then executing Jang, it tells you that everything’s not normal," said Victor Cha, a former senior White House adviser on Asia.
The first appearance of the new narrative came out just days ago, when North Korea accused Jang, 67, of corruption, womanizing, gambling and taking drugs. It said he’d been eliminated from all his posts. Friday’s allegations heaped on claims that he tried "to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state."
Yemen says latest airstrike targeted
SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Yemen’s official security committee said on Friday that people targeted in an airstrike in central city were al-Qaida militants including those who masterminded attacks on vital institutions, the police and army.
The Friday statement by the Supreme Security Committee, headed by Yemen’s president, was referring Thursday’s drone strike that was believed to have targeted a convoy heading to a wedding party in the central city of Radda, killing 13 people.
It said that the airstrike targeted one car belonging to al-Qaida leaders. "Inside the car, there were members and leaders who masterminded armed forces, police, and vital institutions."
"This is part of ongoing efforts to chase and track al-Qaida members," the committee said in its statement, adding, "the security apparatus will not allow those elements to spread chaos and threaten security, stability and general order."
The committee warned citizens from providing "aid or shelter to any of the terrorist elements" and urged them to notify security authorities about them.
The city, a stronghold of al-Qaida militants, witnessed deadly clashes early last year between armed tribesmen backed by the military and al-Qaida gunmen they tried to drive out of the city.
On Thursday, a Yemeni military official said initial information indicated the drone mistook the motorcade for an al-Qaida convoy. He said tribesmen known to the villagers were among the dead.
While the U.S. acknowledges its drone program in Yemen, it does not usually talk about individual strikes.
forces disperse Islamist protests
CAIRO (AP) -- Egyptian security forces fired tear gas Friday to disperse hundreds of Islamist demonstrators marching across the country to demand the release of detained student protesters. One person was killed south of the capital and another in the canal city of Suez.
Since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in a popularly-backed military coup in July, his supporters have been staging near-daily protests calling for his reinstatement. Their numbers dwindled under a heavy security crackdown, but university campuses have emerged at the forefront of the movement since classes started last September.
Protests organized mainly by Islamist students on and off campus have often deteriorated into clashes with security forces, leaving two dead in November.
Demonstrators gathered on Friday despite heavy rains and unprecedented low temperatures to support dozens of students arrested by authorities in recent weeks. Some of them made a four-finger hand gesture used to remember the violent breakup of an Islamist sit-in by security forces in mid-August that left hundreds dead.
Clashes erupted as security forces fired volleys of tear gas to disperse the gatherings, with local residents also chasing protesters in the industrial city of Mahallah, north of Cairo.
In Cairo’s southern neighborhood of Maadi, demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails at security forces who fired tear gas to disperse them. Protesters and local residents pelted each other with stones in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
In Suez, protesters set a police car ablaze before residents chased them away, a local security official said. A medical official said a young man was killed by a gunshot to the head in clashes between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and anti-Islamist locals. Egypt’s official news agency MENA another person, 17-year-old Belal Yassin, was killed in clashes between protesters and police in the city of Fayoum, south of Cairo.
Cleveland man convicted in 2005
fire deaths of 9
CLEVELAND (AP) -- A former drug dealer was found guilty on Friday at his retrial in the 2005 arson deaths of a woman and eight children at a birthday sleepover -- the city’s deadliest house fire.
A U.S. District Court jury handed down the verdict in the case against 30-year-old Antun Lewis in the fire in an impoverished Cleveland neighborhood. Lewis also was convicted in the first trial.
Defense attorneys said Friday they believe the enormous tragedy overshadowed the evidence in the case.
"We truly believe that the charges in this case were so horrific, with the deaths of the children and the mother, that the community wanted to hold someone responsible, in spite of what the evidence showed," attorney Angelo Lonardo said, according to The Plain Dealer.
Judge Solomon Oliver, who presided at both trials, ordered the second trial, agreeing with the defense that the government had used unreliable jailhouse informants.
The defense said the informants’ testimony was prompted by money paid by the government -- one man got more than $20,000 over several years -- or the prospect of leniency in their own criminal cases.
The fire killed 33-year-old Medeia Carter, four of her children and four other youngsters attending a birthday sleepover party on May 21, 2005.
The children were celebrating Moses Williams Jr.’s 14th birthday. More than 4,000 people attended their funerals at Cleveland’s convention center.
Authorities say Lewis, upset over a drug debt, doused the three-story building’s first floor with gasoline.
Lewis, a convicted drug dealer who knew some of the victims, denied wrongdoing and said he was home several blocks away when the fire started before dawn.
Lewis was charged in federal court because the government subsidized the lease on the house where the fire occurred.
He was deemed ineligible for the death penalty because of a mental disability. Evidence presented by the defense showed that he has an IQ of about 70 or less, meaning he falls within the range of mild mental disability.
Son of pilot says father hit head during crash
HONOLULU (AP) -- The son of a pilot who was flying a plane that crashed in Hawaii waters, killing the state health director, says his father hurt his head on the control panel as he maneuvered the aircraft.
Robert Kawasaki said Friday that his father is distraught and shocked that Health Director Loretta Fuddy died after the crash.
An autopsy is expected Friday.
Seven other passengers survived along with the pilot, Clyde Kawasaki.
A passenger who swam to shore praised the way the pilot landed the plane on its belly.
The 60-year-old pilot remains hospitalized with a head injury.
He told The Associated Press from his Honolulu hospital room that he hopes to be released later in the day.