Wednesday October 31, 2012

Anti-regime activists say Syrian regime
killed 23 in
Damascus suburb

BEIRUT (AP) -- Airstrikes by Syrian jets and shells from tanks leveled a neighborhood in a restive city near the capital of Damascus on Tuesday, killing 18 people, and at least five rebel fighters died nearby in clashes with regime troops, activists said.

The airstrikes on the city of Douma, northeast of the capital, left residents scampering over a huge expanse of rubble and using their hands to dig up mangled bodies, according to activist videos posted online.

Scenes of vast destruction like those from Douma on Tuesday have grown more common as rebels seeking to topple President Bashar Assad have made gains on the ground, and Assad’s forces have responded with overwhelming air power.

In the past weeks, anti-regime activists say about 150 people have been killed a day in fighting. Since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011, they say 35,000 have died.

Tuesday’s airstrikes came a day after what activists called the heaviest and most widespread bombing campaign nationwide, on what was to be the final day of an internationally sanctioned truce that never took hold.

Phony voting instructions, other last-minute campaign tactics showing up in tight race

MIAMI (AP) -- With a week to go until Election Day, the nasty campaign tactics are coming out.

People in Florida, Virginia and Indiana have gotten calls falsely telling them they can vote early by phone and don’t need to go to a polling place.


Advertisement

In suburban Broward County, Fla., a handful of elderly voters who requested absentee ballots say they were visited by unknown people claiming to be authorized to collect the ballots.

And there’s a mysterious DVD popping up in mailboxes that purports to be a documentary raising questions about the true identity of President Barack Obama’s father.

It’s one more indication of just how close this presidential election is. Voting rights advocates say reports of political deception and underhandedness are on the rise.

"Unfortunately it seems like the shadowy individuals that want to prevent people from voting are doing things earlier," said Eric Marshall, legal mobilization manager at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The organization is part of a coalition called Election Protection that is monitoring voting access and rights nationwide, including a toll-free hotline set up to take complaints.

NASA’s Curiosity
rover takes a bite
of Martian soil

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- Scientists say the Martian soil at the rover Curiosity’s landing site contains minerals similar to what’s found on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano.

The finding released Tuesday is the latest step in trying to better understand whether the environment could have been hospitable to microbial life.

Curiosity recently ingested its first soil sample and used one of its instruments to tease out the minerals present. An analysis revealed it contained feldspar and olivine, minerals typically associated with volcanic eruptions. Mission scientists say the Martian soil is similar to volcanic soil on the flanks of Mauna Kea.

Curiosity landed near the Martian equator in August on a two-year mission. It’ll be another month before it drills into its first rock. Then it’s expected to head toward a mountain by year’s end.

Juror says guilty verdict for Ohio teen in Craigslist scheme was ‘difficult’

AKRON, Ohio (AP) -- The forewoman of the jury that convicted an Ohio teenage of aggravated murder in a deadly plot to lure men desperate for work with phony Craigslist job offers says it was a difficult decision because of the boy’s age.

Juror Dana Nash of Akron also said jurors looked at all the evidence and arrived at a fair decision that was also the right decision.

Seventeen-year-old Brogan Rafferty faces life without the possibility of parole following his conviction Tuesday.

Jurors said they worked on the 25 charges against Rafferty one by one, with the most difficult one involving evidence surrounding the death of the first victim.

Jurors debated each charge and often reviewed their own notes and evidence presented at trial, including audio interviews Rafferty gave investigators.

Nash says jurors felt like Rafferty contradicted himself during his trial testimony.

Brother: Man didn’t know Texas pastor he killed

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- The brother of the man who rammed his car into a church wall says he’d been acting strange for the past week and didn’t know the Fort Worth-area pastor he beat to death.

Derrick Anthony Birdow’s brother said Tuesday he has no idea why Birdow drove from his Fort Worth home to Greater Sweethome Missionary Baptist Church in nearby Forest Hill on Monday, passing by numerous churches.

Glen Birdow told The Associated Press that his brother did not attend the church, but that his wife may have a few times.

Derrick Birdow died after being found unresponsive in a patrol car. Officers had subdued him with a Taser after arriving to find him assaulting the Rev. Danny Kirk Sr. with an electric guitar.

Kirk died at the church.

Trooper who fired
on pickup with
illegal immigrants
tried to disable it

LA JOYA, Texas (AP) -- Texas state police say the trooper who fired from a helicopter at a pickup truck carrying illegal immigrants was trying to disable the speeding vehicle.

Two people were killed and two wounded Thursday in the incident on an isolated road along the Mexican border near the town of La Joya, about 70 miles northwest of Brownsville.

Police said Friday that the truck appeared to be carrying "a typical covered drug load" and was travelling at reckless speeds, endangering the public.

The officer who fired on the truck has been placed on administrative leave.

Eight people were arrested, seven of them illegal immigrants from Guatemala. The nationalities of the dead and the other detainee were not released.

Aftershock: 6.2 earthquake off British Columbia coast

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude 6.2 earthquake off the west coast of Canada on Monday night is an aftershock of the magnitude 7.7 quake that struck Saturday night. A geophysicist says the agency had no immediate reports that the latest quake caused any significant damage or was widely felt.

The National Weather Service West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center said the Monday night quake was not expected to generate a tsunami.

USGS geophysicist Susan Hoover in Golden, Colorado, says an even larger aftershock -- a magnitude 6.3 quake -- was recorded on Sunday in the same general area off British Columbia’s Queen Charlotte Islands. Since the 7.7 quake, Hoover says nearly 80 quakes registering magnitude 4.0 or higher have been recorded in the area.

Prosecutor: Boy on trial in murder of neo-Nazi dad told sister he planned shooting

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) -- The 10-year-old son of a neo-Nazi leader told his younger sister that he planned to shoot their father, then a day later took a gun from his parents’ bedroom and fired one bullet into his father’s head as he slept on a couch, a prosecutor alleged Tuesday.

The boy’s father, Jeff Hall, was an out-of-work plumber who as regional leader of the National Socialist Movement headed rallies at a synagogue and a day labor site.

In opening statements at the murder trial, Riverside County prosecutor Michael Soccio dismissed the notion that Hall’s neo-Nazi beliefs contributed to his son’s behavior, as the defense maintains, and instead said the boy, now 12, was a violent child who had been kicked out of every school he attended.

The boy also suspected his father was going to leave his stepmother, and he didn’t want the family to split up, prosecutors have said.

"You’ll learn that (the child) would have shot his father even if he’d been a member of the Peace and Freedom Party. It made no difference," Soccio said, before showing the court photos of Hall playing tea party with his young children. "They lived a relatively normal life."