Feds praise verdict against bin Laden son-in-law, call him a member of a ‘homicidal hierarchy’

NEW YORK (AP) -- Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law was convicted Wednesday for his role as al-Qaida’s fiery chief spokesman after 9/11 -- a verdict prosecutors said vindicated the Obama administration’s strategy of bringing terror suspects to justice in civilian court.

A federal jury deliberated six hours over two days before finding 48-year-old Sulaiman Abu Ghaith guilty of charges that included conspiracy to kill Americans and providing support to al-Qaida.

Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti-born imam who married bin Laden’s eldest daughter about five years ago, is the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure brought to trial on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Prosecutors said he played a leading role in the terror organization’s post-9/11 propaganda videos, in which he and others gloated over the destruction and he warned of a "storm of airplanes" to follow.

He could get life in prison at sentencing Sept. 8.

Satellite spots 122 objects floating in Flight 370 search area, but air hunt comes up empty

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- They are the most tantalizing clues yet: 122 objects spotted by satellite, floating in the turbulent Indian Ocean where officials believe the missing Malaysian jetliner went down. But bad weather, the passage of time and the sheer remoteness of their location kept answers out of the searchers’ grasp.


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Nineteen days into the mystery of Flight 370, the discovery of the objects that ranged in size from 3 feet to 75 feet, offered "the most credible lead that we have," a top Malaysian official said Wednesday.

With clouds briefly thinning in a stretch of ocean known for dangerous weather, aircraft and ships from six countries combed the waters far southwest of the Australian coast. Crews saw only three objects, one of them blue and two others that appeared to be rope.

But search planes could not relocate them or find the 122 pieces seen by a French satellite. Limited by fuel and distance, they turned back for the night.

That echoed the frustration of earlier sweeps that failed to zero in on three objects seen by satellites in recent days. Forecasters warned that the weather was likely to deteriorate again Thursday, possibly jeopardizing the search for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that vanished early March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Egypt’s el-Sissi resigns from military and announces he
will run for president

CAIRO (AP) -- Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the Egyptian military chief who last summer removed the elected Islamist president, announced Wednesday that he has resigned from the military and will run for president in elections scheduled for next month.

In a nationally televised speech, el-Sissi appeared in his military uniform, saying that it was the last time he would wear it because he was giving it up "to defend the nation" by running for president. He said he was "responding to a call from the people."

Egyptian law says only civilians can run for president, so his resignation from the military, as well as his posts of military chief and defense minister, was a required step.

El-Sissi is widely expected to win the vote, after months of nationalist fervor since he removed Mohammed Morsi, who in 2012 became Egypt’s first freely elected and civilian president. The ouster in July came after massive protests demanding Morsi go after only a year in office amid public resentment that his Muslim Brotherhood was monopolizing power.

Since then, the military-backed interim government has waged a fierce crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, arresting thousands of members and killing hundreds of protesters in clashes. At the same time, militants have waged a campaign of attacks on police and the military, and el-Sissi has repeatedly declared a war on terrorism.

Sober smartphone app helps recovering alcoholics stay sober; its GPS keeps them away from bars

CHICAGO (AP) -- A smartphone app for recovering alcoholics that includes a panic button and sounds an alert when they get too close to taverns helped keep some on the wagon, researchers who developed the tool found.

The sober app studied joins a host of others that serve as electronic shoulder angels, featuring a variety of options for trying to prevent alcoholics and drug addicts from relapsing.

Adults released from in-patient alcoholism treatment centers who got free sober smartphones reported fewer drinking days and more overall abstinence than those who got the usual follow-up support.

The results were based on patients’ self-reporting on whether they resumed drinking, a potential limitation. Still, addiction experts say the immediacy of smartphone-based help could make them a useful tool in fighting relapse.

Mark Wiitala, 32, took part in the study and says the app helped save his life. He said the most helpful feature allowed him to connect to a network of peers who’d gone through the same recovery program. The app made them immediately accessible for an encouraging text or phone call when he needed an emotional boost.

TSA recommends armed law enforcement at security checkpoints during peak hours

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Transportation Security Administration recommended Wednesday that armed law enforcement officers be posted at security checkpoints and ticket counters during peak hours in the aftermath of last year’s fatal shooting at Los Angeles International Airport.

The 25-page report to Congress obtained by The Associated Press makes 14 recommendations that do not carry a price tag and are somewhat dependent on local authorities who provide airport security.

While airport security has been beefed up since 9/11, the LA shooting exposed communication problems and gaps in police patrols that left the terminal without an armed officer for nearly 3 1/2 minutes as a gunman targeted TSA officers with a rifle Nov. 1.

The AP has reported that the two armed officers assigned to Terminal 3 were on break that morning and hadn’t notified dispatchers. Months earlier, LAX had changed staffing plans to have officers roam terminals instead of staffing checkpoints such as the one the gunman approached.

TSA conducted the review of nearly 450 airports nationwide after Officer Gerardo Hernandez was killed in the agency’s first line of duty death. Two officers and a passenger were wounded. Paul Ciancia, 24, a Pennsville, N.J., native, has pleaded not guilty to 11 federal charges, including murder of a federal officer.

Families of mudslide victims confront grim reality: Some of
the dead may never be found

DARRINGTON, Wash. (AP) -- Becky Bach watches and waits, hoping that search crews find her brother and three other relatives who are missing in Washington state’s deadly mudslide.

Doug Massingale waits too, for word about his 4-month-old granddaughter. Searchers were able to identify carpet from the infant’s bedroom, but a log jam stood in the way of a more thorough effort to find little Sanoah Huestis, known as "Snowy."

With little hope to cling to, family members of the missing are beginning to confront a grim reality: Their loved ones might never be found, remaining entombed forever inside a mountain of mud that is believed to have claimed at least 24 lives.

"It just generates so many questions if they don’t find them," Bach said. "I’ve never known anybody to die in a natural disaster. Do they issue death certificates?"

Search crews using dogs, bulldozers and their bare hands kept slogging through the mess of broken wood and mud again Wednesday, looking for more bodies or anyone who might still be alive nearly five days after a wall of fast-moving earth destroyed a small rural community. But authorities have acknowledged they might have to leave some victims buried.

Poll: Ukraine crisis sinks Obama’s already-low approval rating, but sanctions draw support

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Foreign policy used to stand out as a not-so-bleak spot in the public’s waning assessment of Barack Obama. Not anymore. He’s getting low marks for handling Russia’s swoop into Ukraine, and more Americans than ever disapprove of the way Obama is doing his job, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Despite the poor performance reviews, Obama’s primary tactic so far -- imposing economic sanctions on key Russians -- has strong backing.

Close to 9 out of 10 Americans support sanctions as a response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, the poll indicates. About half of that group says the U.S. sanctions so far are about right, while the other half wants to see them strengthened, the AP-GfK poll found.

Most Democrats say the sanctions were OK, while a majority of Republicans find them too weak.

"We’re supposed to be a country that helps smaller countries in need," said Christopher Ashby, 29, a Republican in Albemarle, N.C., who wants a more powerful response. "Ukraine at this time is definitely in need."

Astronomers discover pink new world nicknamed ‘Biden’ at the outer reaches of the solar system

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Peering into the far reaches of the solar system, astronomers have spied a pink frozen world 7 1/2 billion miles from the sun.

It’s the second such object to be discovered in a region of space beyond Pluto long considered a celestial wasteland. Until now, the lone known resident in this part of the solar system was an oddball dwarf planet spotted in 2003 named Sedna after the mythological Inuit goddess who created the sea creatures of the Arctic.

The latest discovery shows "Sedna is not a freak. We can have confidence that there is a new population to explore," Yale University senior research scientist David Rabinowitz said in an email. He was one of Sedna’s discoverers, but had no role in the new find detailed in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

For years, astronomers hunted in vain for other Sednas in the little-studied fringes of the solar system.

The new object, 2012 VP113, was tracked using a new camera on a ground telescope in Chile by Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., and Chad Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii. Trujillo was part of the team that found Sedna

Putin’s ties to Obama’s priorities complicate reassessment of U.S.-Russia relationship

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Even as he criticizes Vladimir Putin and imposes sanctions on Russia, President Barack Obama is struggling with the consequences of his own earlier quest for a fresh start between Washington and Moscow.

From early in his presidency, Obama has engaged Russia to help achieve some of his key goals, including preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power and, more recently, solving the war in Syria before it spreads further in the Middle East. Now, he finds that the engagement is limiting how hard he can hit back at Russia without toppling everything else.

White House officials insist that the U.S. can’t go back to a business-as-usual relationship with Russia as long as Putin still has control of Crimea, the strategically important peninsula he annexed from Ukraine.

Exactly what might be changed is still being debating inside the West Wing. Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, said Russia’s incursion in Crimea "is causing the countries and people of Europe and the international community and, of course, the United States to reassess what does this mean and what are the implications."

But even as officials warn of curtailed ties with Russia, they’re seeking to insulate Obama’s most pressing foreign policy priorities from any major harm that might result.