German TV: Snowden says NSA also spies on industry
BERLIN (AP) -- Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden claimed in a new interview that the U.S. agency is involved in industrial espionage.
In the interview aired Sunday night on German public television broadcaster ARD, Snowden said if German engineering company Siemens had information that would benefit the U.S., but had nothing to do with national security needs, the National Security Agency would still use it.
It wasn’t clear what exactly Snowden accused the NSA of doing with such information -- he only said he didn’t want to reveal the details before journalists did.
Snowden also told ARD television that he was no longer in possession of any NSA documents, because he had passed them all on to a few selected journalists and that he had no further influence on the release of the files.
He also said U.S.government representatives wanted to kill him, according to a simultaneous German translation by the station. Snowden referred to an article he had read on Buzzfeed in which U.S.government representatives had told a reporter that they wanted to kill him.
Snowden, wearing a white shirt and black jacket, also chatted about his childhood and said he’d always been fascinated by computers and was one of those kids whose parents would tell him late at night to finally turn it off.
Hubert Seipel, the reporter who talked to Snowden, said he first met him in Moscow at the end of December and conducted the interview on Thursday.
Seipel described Snowden, 30, as "worried, but relaxed at the same time." He said Snowden was studying Russian, but that he couldn’t confirm any further details about where exactly he met Snowden or whether he is working for a Russian Internet company, as some media have previously reported.
Snowden faces felony charges in the U.S. after revealing the NSA’s mass surveillance program. He is living under temporary asylum in Russia, which has no extradition treaty with the U.S.
The revelations about U.S. surveillance programs have damaged Washington’s relations with key allies, including Germany following reports that the NSA had monitored communications of European citizens -- even listening in on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.
Maryland mall gunman
was an avid skater, high school graduate with no criminal record
COLUMBIA, Md. (AP) -- The 19-year-old Maryland mall gunman was a skateboarding enthusiast who took a taxi to the mall, carrying a 12-gauge shotgun he’d purchased legally a month earlier, plenty of ammunition and some crude homemade explosives inside a backpack, authorities said.
Darion Marcus Aguliar entered the Mall in Columbia around 10:15 a.m. Saturday near Zumiez, a shop that sells skateboarding gear, and went downstairs to a food court directly below. Less than an hour later, he returned to the store, dumped the backpack in a dressing room and then started shooting, police said.
Shoppers fled in a panic or barricaded themselves behind closed doors and police arrived within 2 minutes of the first 911 call. They found three people dead, including Aguilar, who killed himself, police said.
The shooting has baffled law enforcement and acquaintances of Aguilar, a quiet, skinny teenager who graduated from high school less than a year ago and had no criminal record. Police spent Sunday trying to piece together his motive, but by late afternoon, it remained elusive.
After Aguilar had fired between six and nine shots, two Zumiez employees were dead, police said. One victim, Brianna Benlolo, a 21-year-old single mother, lived half a mile away from Aguilar in the same College Park neighborhood, but police said they were still trying to determine what, if any, relationship they had. Although they lived close to Maryland’s largest university, neither was a student there.
Syria peace talks yield narrow deal on besieged city, government ‘red line’ on Assad
GENEVA (AP) -- Two days of face-to-face peace talks yielded a narrow and tentative agreement Sunday for women and children trapped in a besieged Syrian city, and the government said President Bashar Assad had no intention of giving up "the keys to Damascus."
With little progress to show after months of international pressure for the conference in Geneva, the U.N. mediator hoping to broker an end to Syria’s civil war defended their pace.
"I think being too slow is a better way than going too fast," Lakhdar Brahimi said. "If you run, you may gain one hour and lose one week."
The limited agreement to let women and children leave a blockaded part of the old city of Homs, under negotiation for at least two days, fell far short of expectations and was called into question by multiple reports of government shelling.
The talks have yet to touch upon the issue of a possible transitional government -- their purpose according to terms laid out when they were first conceived. But the government was unequivocal that Assad’s future was assured in the country led by his family since 1970.
Family of brain-dead, pregnant Texas woman
says hospital has removed life support
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- A brain-dead, pregnant Texas woman’s body was removed from life support Sunday, as the hospital keeping her on machines against her family’s wishes acceded to a judge’s ruling that it was misapplying state law.
Marlise Munoz’s body soon will be buried by her husband and parents, after John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth announced it would not fight Judge R.H. Wallace Jr.’s Friday order to pronounce her dead and return her body to her family. The 23-week-old fetus she was carrying will not be born.
The hospital’s decision Sunday brings an apparent end to a case that became a touchstone for national debates about the beginning and end of life, and whether a pregnant woman who is considered legally and medically dead should be kept on life support for the sake of a fetus.
Munoz’s husband, Erick Munoz, sued the hospital because it would not remove life support as he said his wife would have wanted in such a situation. Erick and Marlise Munoz worked as paramedics and were familiar with end-of-life issues, and Erick said his wife had told him she would not want to be kept alive under such circumstances.
But the hospital refused his request, citing Texas law that says life-sustaining treatment cannot be withdrawn from a pregnant patient, regardless of her end-of-life wishes.
Brutal cold returns to Midwest for extended stay as rare weather pattern locks in deep freeze
CHICAGO (AP) -- An unusual weather pattern driving bitterly cold air from the Arctic Circle south across a huge swath of the Midwest is expected to send temperatures plummeting Monday from Minneapolis to Louisville, Ky., the latest punch from a winter that is in some areas shaping up as one of the coldest on record.
Temperatures will remain in the grips of the deep freeze for 2 1/2 days, said meteorologist Mike Hudson of the National Weather Service in Kansas City, Mo. It will be similar to what happened earlier this month when temperatures dropped quickly and stayed low for days when a piece of the polar vortex -- winds that circulate around the North Pole -- "broke off and moved south," Hudson said.
In cities where temperatures reached the 40s, 50s and even higher Sunday, people will wake up Monday to temperatures ranging from the teens to well below zero. And with the wind chill, cities throughout the Midwest will feel far colder than the minus 4 that Hudson said was expected in Barrow, Alaska, the nation’s northernmost city.
The weather service said city after city will face wind chills well below zero Monday: minus 43 in Minneapolis, minus 23 in both Milwaukee and Chicago, minus 14 in Kansas City, minus 10 in St. Louis, and minus 3 in Louisville.
In the Chicago area, residents were bracing for a historic deep freeze. Monday’s high was expected to be minus 4 degrees and drop as low as 17 below zero downtown, with wind chills as low as 40 below zero.
NIH docs squirt flu virus up the noses of volunteers willing to sneeze for science
BETHESDA, Md. (AP) -- Forget being sneezed on: Government scientists are deliberately giving dozens of volunteers the flu by squirting the live virus straight up their noses.
It may sound bizarre, but the rare type of research is a step in the quest for better flu vaccines. It turns out that how the body fends off influenza remains something of a mystery.
"Vaccines are working, but we could do better," said Dr. Matthew Memoli of the National Institutes of Health, who is leading the study that aims to infect up to 100 adults over the next year.
Wait a minute: Flu is sweeping the country, so why not just study the already sick? That wouldn’t let scientists measure how the immune system reacts through each step of infection, starting with that first exposure to the virus.
It’s not an experiment to be taken lightly. After all, the flu kills thousands of Americans a year. For safety, Memoli chose a dose that produces mild to moderate symptoms -- and accepts only volunteers who are healthy and no older than 50.
U.S. officials probe illnesses on Caribbean cruise
KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) -- U.S. health officials on Sunday boarded a cruise ship docked in the U.S. Virgin Islands to investigate an illness outbreak that has stricken at least 300 people with gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that 281, or nearly 10 percent, of the 3,050 passengers aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas have reported getting sick during a Caribbean cruise that left Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on Tuesday. Twenty-two crew members also reported feeling ill.
Janet Diaz, spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., said CDC representatives boarded the towering, 15-deck ship as it made a port call in St. Thomas, the main island of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
At least two CDC officials, an epidemiologist and an environmental health officer, were expected to do the investigation and evaluate the outbreak response on the cruise liner. The U.S. health agency had not responded Sunday to an email and a call seeking comment about the work aboard the ship.
During the previous port call in Puerto Rico, the ship underwent "extensive and thorough sanitizing" to help prevent more people from getting sick, the company spokeswoman said. The ship bypassed a scheduled stop at the company’s fenced-in beach destination in northern Haiti to sail directly to Puerto Rico’s capital.
"This was a difficult decision to make; however, we feel it is best to make this itinerary modification to help prevent any more guests from becoming ill," Diaz said.
The passengers and crew who fell ill have "responded well to over-the-counter medication being administered onboard the ship," she said.
Fast-spreading norovirus is often to blame for similar symptoms sweeping closed quarters like those on cruise ships, but a determination will likely have to wait until samples are tested in a lab. Diaz said special cleaning products and disinfectants that are proven to kill norovirus are being used to clean the ship.
In a Sunday statement, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ tourism commissioner, said the territory was grateful for the CDC’s "quick response" and St. Thomas was ready to welcome ship passengers cleared to disembark.
On Friday, an Explorer of the Seas passenger named Arnee Dodd tweeted that she had fallen ill aboard the ship and was quarantined with the other sick people. The Connecticut woman wrote that ship employees "put a lock down on food & are constantly cleaning everything."
It was not clear if any passengers were still being quarantined Sunday.
The ship’s next scheduled stop is the Dutch Caribbean country of St. Maarten.
Bieber relaxing in Panama after Florida scrape
PANAMA CITY (AP) -- Pop star Justin Bieber is relaxing at the beach in Panama after being charged in Florida with driving under the influence.
Panamanian radio and television host Eddy Vasquez was filming a show at the Pacific Coast resort in Punta Chame when he spotted Bieber and his entourage walking on the beach. He and his crew took pictures of the singer and his companions, who got on personal watercraft and traveled to a nearby island.
Police in Miami Beach said they arrested Bieber smelling of alcohol after officers saw him drag-racing before dawn Thursday, with his yellow Lamborghini traveling at nearly twice the speed limit.
Tunisia assembly passes democratic constitution
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) -- Tunisia’s National Constitutional Assembly approved the country’s landmark post-revolutionary constitution its members have spent the last two years writing by 200 out of 216 votes.
Sunday’s vote approved the foundation of a new democratic state in the North African country after its people overthrew their dictator in 2011 in a popular uprising that inspired the so-called Arab Spring across the region.
"This constitution, without being perfect, is one of consensus," assembly speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar said. "We had today a new rendezvous with history to build a democracy founded on rights and equality."
The new document guarantees basic freedoms and gender equality. It has been called one of the most progressive constitutions in the Arab world and involved lengthy negotiations between an Islamist-dominated government and the largely secular opposition.
Gust gaffe: Wyoming road sign warns 355 mph wind
CASPER, Wyo. (AP) -- It’s windy in Wyoming, but still. Gusts of 355 mph and more?
That’s what one electronic road sign said in Casper on Saturday. The Wyoming Department of Transportation says a sign operator working from Cheyenne meant to type "35+" but mistakenly added another 5.
The Casper Star-Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/LU016c) the inflated wind gust message was posted for 17 minutes before the department noticed the mistake and corrected it.
The whirlwind on social media lasted longer.
One person posted a photo of the sign with the comment "CASPER WY. WHERE TORNADO ALLEY SEEMS PLEASANTLY BREEZY."