U.S. Air Force helicopter crashes in England, killing 4 crew members

LONDON (AP) -- A U.S. Air Force Pave Hawk helicopter crashed in a coastal area of eastern England during a training mission on Tuesday night, killing all four crew members aboard, officials said.

Lt. Keenan Kunst at the Royal Air Force station in Lakenheath, Suffolk County, which hosts U.S. Air force units and personnel, said in a telephone interview that the helicopter went down in the coastal village of Cley, near the base. He said the aircraft was based there and on a training mission.

In Washington, a U.S. defense official said the accident killed the four U.S. Air Force crew members aboard. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the crash publicly.

Police in Norfolk County cordoned off the area where the crash occurred, and several vehicles from the fire brigade, coast guard and police are at the scene.

Pave Hawks are often used for combat search and rescue missions, mainly to recover downed air crew members or other personnel.

The big chill spreads to the East and the deep South; ‘I didn’t think the South got this cold’

ATLANTA (AP) -- Fountains froze over, a 200-foot Ferris wheel in Atlanta shut down, and Southerners had to dig out winter coats, hats and gloves they almost never have to use.

The brutal polar air that has made the Midwest shiver over the past few days spread to the East and the Deep South on Tuesday, shattering records that in some cases had stood for more than a century.

The mercury plunged into the single digits and teens from Boston and New York to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and Little Rock -- places where many people don’t know the first thing about extreme cold.

"I didn’t think the South got this cold," said Marty Williams, a homeless man, originally from Chicago, who took shelter at a church in Atlanta, where it hit a record low of 6 degrees. "That was the main reason for me to come down from up North, from the cold, to get away from all that stuff."

The morning weather map for the eastern half of the U.S. looked like an algebra worksheet: lots of small, negative numbers. In fact, the Midwest and the East were colder than much of Antarctica.

In coldest weather, recipe for
safer roads goes beyond the
usual sprinkling of salt

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- A splash of beet juice, a dollop of molasses, a squeeze of cheese brine. In the coldest weather, the recipe for safer roads often goes beyond the usual sprinkling of salt.

Across the nation’s snow belt, transportation officials are in the market for cheap and environmentally friendly ways to make rock salt work better by keeping it on the roads longer and melting ice at lower temperatures.

Plain salt is largely ineffective below 16 degrees. Additives can keep it working in temperatures as low as minus 25.

"This winter, it’s been a godsend to be able to do that," said Leland Smithson, the ice and snow expert at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. "It’s been so cold."

In Milwaukee, road crews are experimenting with plentiful cheese brine, a leftover from cheesemaking. New York and Pennsylvania are among states trying sugar beet juice, while molasses and potato juice are flavoring roads elsewhere.

Former Miss Venezuela and
ex-husband slain resisting robbery

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- A former Miss Venezuela and her ex-husband were shot and killed and their 5-year-old daughter was wounded after they resisted robbers by locking the doors of their broken-down car, police said Tuesday.

The slaying of Monica Spear, 29, a popular soap-opera actress, and Thomas Henry Berry, a 39-year-old British citizen, was the latest high-profile crime in a country where killings are common in armed robberies and where rampant kidnapping has ensnared even foreign ambassadors and professional baseball players.

Spear and Berry were slain late Monday night near Puerto Cabello, the country’s main port, while headed to Caracas after their car hit "a sharp object that had been placed on the highway," the director of the country’s investigative police, Jose Gregorio Sierralta, told reporters.

Sierralta said the attack occurred after the car had been lifted onto a tow truck and, seeing the assailants coming, the family locked themselves in their car. He said the daughter, Maya, was treated for a light leg wound and was with relatives in Caracas.

Police in Puerto Cabello had arrested five suspects, some under age 18, Sierralta added.

Burst of al-Qaida strength tests Obama’s hands-off approach in
the Middle East

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is confronted with a recent burst of strength by al-Qaida that is chipping away at the remains of Mideast stability, testing his hands-off approach to conflicts in Iraq and Syria at the same time he pushes to keep thousands of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaida-backed fighters have fought hard against other rebel groups in Syria, in a sideshow to the battle to unseat President Bashar Assad. Across the border in Iraq, they led a surprisingly strong campaign to take two of the cities that U.S. forces suffered heavy losses to protect.

This invigorated front highlights the tension between two of Obama’s top foreign policy tenets: to end American involvement in Mideast wars and to eradicate insurgent extremists -- specifically al-Qaida. It also raises questions about the future U.S. role in the region if militants overtake American gains made during more than a decade of war.

In Afghanistan, Obama already has decided to continue the fight against extremists, as long as Afghan President Hamid Karzai signs off on a joint security agreement. Obama seeks to leave as many as 10,000 troops there beyond December, extending what already has become the longest U.S. war. But officials say he would be willing to withdraw completely at the end of this year if the security agreement cannot be finalized.

That would mirror the U.S. exit from Iraq, the other unpopular war Obama inherited. A spike in sectarian violence followed the U.S. withdrawal at the end of 2011, and now followed by the recent, alarming takeover of Ramadi and Fallujah by an al-Qaida affiliate known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

JPMorgan Chase will pay more than $2.5 billion failing to detect, report Madoff fraud

NEW YORK (AP) -- JPMorgan Chase & Co., already beset by costly legal woes, will pay more than $2.5 billion for ignoring obvious warning signs of Bernard Madoff’s massive Ponzi scheme, authorities said Tuesday.

The nation’s largest bank will forfeit a record $1.7 billion to settle criminal charges, plus pay an additional $543 million to settle civil claims by victims. It also will pay a $350 million civil penalty for what the Treasury Department called "critical and widespread deficiencies" in its programs to prevent money laundering and other suspicious activity.

The bank failed to carry out its legal obligations while Madoff "built his massive house of cards," George Venizelos, head of the FBI’s New York office, said at a news conference.

"It took until after the arrest of Madoff, one of the worst crooks this office has ever seen, for JPMorgan to alert authorities to what the world already knew," he said.

Madoff banked at JPMorgan through what court papers referred to as the "703 account." In 2008, the bank’s London desk circulated a memo describing JPMorgan’s inability to validate his trading activity or custody of assets and his "odd choice" of a one-man accounting firm, the government said.

First batch of chemical weapons taken out of Syria in key step to rid regime of banned arsenal

BEIRUT (AP) -- The first batch of the most dangerous chemicals in Syria’s arsenal was loaded onto a Danish ship and taken out of the country Tuesday under tight security, an important milestone in the international operation to rid President Bashar Assad of the weapons by midyear.

The operation at Syria’s port of Latakia took place against the backdrop of a widening civil war and escalating infighting between a chaotic mix of Syrian rebel brigades and an al-Qaida linked militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

With the rebel-on-rebel fighting now in its fifth day, the shadowy leader of another faction affiliated with al-Qaida pleaded with his comrades to stop the spreading clashes, warning it threatened to upend gains made against Syrian government forces.

The chemicals were supposed to have been removed from Syria by Dec. 31, but poor security, bad weather and other factors meant the deadline was missed by a week.

The raw materials -- precursor chemicals for poison gas -- were moved to the government-held port of Latakia from two sites in Syria and loaded onto the Danish cargo ship, which then set sail, said Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch diplomat coordinating the joint mission by the U.N. and Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Iraqi government says airstrike kills 25 al-Qaida militants in besieged province

BAGHDAD (AP) -- A government airstrike killed 25 al-Qaida-linked militants in a besieged province west of Baghdad amid fierce clashes Tuesday between Iraqi special forces and insurgents battling for control of the key cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraqi officials said.

The al-Qaida gains in the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar -- once bloody battlegrounds for U.S. troops -- pose the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government since the departure of American forces in late 2011.

Iraqi forces and fighters from government-allied Sunni tribes have been battling militants to try to recapture the strategic territory, seized last week by an al-Qaida-linked group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Iraqi military spokesman Gen. Mohammed al-Askari said the Iraqi air force struck an operations center for the militants on the outskirts of Ramadi, the provincial capital, killing 25 fighters who were holed up inside.

He didn’t give more details about how the death toll was confirmed but cited intelligence reports. It was not possible to independently verify the military’s claim.

Obama to meet with lawmakers, intel leaders on NSA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is inviting lawmakers and intelligence officials to the White House to discuss National Security Agency programs as Obama prepares to unveil what changes he’s prepared to make to the programs.

The White House says Obama will meet Wednesday with leaders from the U.S. intelligence community and with members of an oversight panel focusing on privacy and civil liberties.

Obama will meet with key lawmakers Thursday. That’s the same day that privacy groups will be at the White House to meet separately with administration officials.

A months-long intelligence review prompted by disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is nearing a conclusion. A review panel appointed by Obama has already suggested dozens of changes. Obama is expected to announce this month which of the recommendations he will implement.