Bills in several states would end undercover investigations of farm animal abuse
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- An undercover video that showed California cows struggling to stand as they were prodded to slaughter by forklifts led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history. In Vermont, a video of veal calves skinned alive and tossed like sacks of potatoes ended with the plant’s closure and criminal convictions.
Now in a pushback led by the meat and poultry industries, state legislators across the country are introducing laws making it harder for animal welfare advocates to investigate cruelty and food safety cases.
Some bills make it illegal to take photographs at a farming operation. Others make it a crime for someone such as an animal welfare advocate to lie on an application to get a job at a plant.
Bills pending in California, Nebraska and Tennessee require that anyone collecting evidence of abuse turn it over to law enforcement within 24 to 48 hours -- which advocates say does not allow enough time to document illegal activity under federal humane handling and food safety laws.
"We believe that folks in the agriculture community and folks from some of the humane organizations share the same concerns about animal cruelty," said Mike Zimmerman, chief of staff for Assembly Member Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, whose bill was unveiled this week. "If there’s abuse taking place, there is no sense in letting it continue so you can make a video.
Pope wades up to a delighted crowd before 1st window appearance in St. Peter’s Square
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Walking up to crowds, shaking hands with surprised bystanders in the street, mixing his formal speeches with off-the-cuff remarks, Pope Francis stamped his own style on the papacy Sunday.
His humor and down-to-earth manner captivated those filling St. Peter’s Square in Rome to overflowing, and he worked the crowd in a way that had to give his security staff palpitations. Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno, in the square himself, estimated the crowd’s size at 300,000.
"Brothers and sisters, ‘Buon giorno,’" Francis said in Italian in his first welcome from the window of the papal residence, setting an informal tone that has become the defining spirit of his young papacy.
Earlier Sunday, he made an impromptu appearance before the public from a side gate of the Vatican that startled passers-by and prompted cheers as he shook hands and kissed babies. Francis had just finished celebrating Mass and delivering a six-minute homily -- brief by church standards -- in the Vatican’s tiny parish church, St. Anna, when he walked outside to greet parishioners one by one, just as an ordinary pastor does after weekly services.
Francis started speaking at the window even before the stroke of noon -- the appointed time for the weekly papal address. The windows of the papal study in the Apostolic Palace were opened for the first time since Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, gave his last Sunday blessing on Feb. 24.
2 Ohio high school football players convicted of raping drunken girl
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (AP) -- Two members of Steubenville’s celebrated high school football team were found guilty Sunday of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl, and Ohio’s attorney general warned the case isn’t over, saying he is investigating whether coaches, parents and other students broke the law, too.
Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, were sentenced to at least a year in juvenile prison in a case that has rocked this Rust Belt city of 18,000 and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the Steubenville High team, which has won nine state championships. Mays was ordered to serve an additional year for photographing the underage girl naked.
They can be held until they turn 21.
The two broke down in tears after a Juvenile Court judge delivered his verdict. They later apologized to the victim and the community, Richmond struggling to speak through his sobs.
"My life is over," he said as he collapsed in the arms of his lawyer.
Egyptian vigilantes hang and kill 2 thieves in Nile Delta town while crowd watches
CAIRO (AP) -- Egyptian vigilantes beat two men accused of stealing a motorized rickshaw on Sunday and then hung them by their feet while some in a watching crowd chanted "kill them!" Both men died, security officials said.
The killings come a week after the attorney general’s office encouraged civilians to arrest lawbreakers and hand them over to police. They are emblematic of the chaos sweeping Egypt and a security breakdown of frightening proportions.
It was one of the most extreme cases of vigilantism in two years of sharply deteriorating security following the 2011 uprising. Gruesome photos circulated quickly on Facebook and other social media outlets, showing images taken by people in the crowd of thousands who watched and recorded the lynchings on cell phone cameras.
The killings were in the town of Samanod, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) north of Cairo in the Nile Delta province of Gharbiya.
Mamdouh al-Muneer, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood group in the Gharbiya governorate, told The Associated Press that the lynchings followed a spate of rapes in the area. He said there have been a number of incidents in the past several months of girls being abducted while leaving school.
Palestinians have little hope for progress toward peace from Obama visit
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- President Barack Obama will find a disillusioned Palestinian public, skeptical about his commitment to promoting Mideast peace, when he visits the region.
Obama’s trip, beginning Wednesday, appears aimed primarily at resetting the sometimes troubled relationship with Israel. But winning the trust of the Palestinians, who accuse him of unfairly favoring Israel, could be a far more difficult task.
After suffering disappointments during the first Obama administration, Palestinians see little reason for optimism in his new term. The White House announcement that Obama will not present any new peace initiatives strengthened their conviction that the U.S. leader isn’t prepared to put the pressure on Israel that they think is necessary to end four years of deadlock in negotiations.
"Obama is coming for Israel, not for us," said Mohammed Albouz, a 55-year-old Palestinian farmer. "Obama will come and go as his predecessors did, without doing anything."
While Israel is preparing to give Obama the red-carpet treatment, there are few signs of excitement in the West Bank. Large posters of Obama hung in Ramallah last week were quickly defaced, and a small group of activists called "The Campaign for Dignity" plans on releasing black balloons into the air in a sign of mourning when Obama arrives.
Police in central India arrest 5 men in connection with gang rape of Swiss tourist
NEW DELHI (AP) -- Police said they arrested five men Sunday in connection with the gang rape of a Swiss woman who was attacked in central India while on a cycling vacation with her husband.
All five men admitted to the attack, which occurred Friday night as the woman and her husband camped out in a forest in Datia district of Madhya Pradesh state, said D. K. Arya, a senior police officer.
Arya said the men, who are from nearby villages, were arrested in Datia. Police were searching for two other men believed to have been involved in the attack, he said.
The couple told police that the woman had been raped by seven or eight men, but that it was dark and they could not be sure of the exact number, Arya said. They said the husband also was attacked by the men.
The woman, 39, was treated Saturday at a hospital in the nearby city of Gwalior and was released later that day, police said.
250,000 brave chilly, damp Dublin to watch -- and join -- St. Patrick’s Day parade
DUBLIN (AP) -- Never mind the fickle Irish weather. A chilly, damp Dublin celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with artistic flair anyway Sunday as the focal point for a weekend of Irish celebrations worldwide.
More than 250,000 revelers braved the occasionally snowy, sleety skies to line the streets for the traditional holiday parade, a 2-mile jaunt through the city’s heart involving performers from 46 countries.
Unusually, 8,000 tourists in town for the festivities led this year’s procession in a "people’s parade." Many donned leprechaun costumes or deployed banners and flags of their home nations or U.S. states, with the Texans making the biggest impression as they sported "Happy St. Paddy’s Day, Y’All!" T-shirts.
One marcher, a 22-year-old engineer from Calgary, Canada, defiantly showed it wasn’t so nippy at all -- by doing the hour-long walk shirtless, with only a painted-on shamrock covering his chest.
"It’s not cold!" Oliver Feniak declared as he, like many in the leisurely paced 2 1/2-hour parade, stopped to shake hands with onlookers standing five-deep on O’Connell Bridge spanning the River Liffey.
Police investigating Pa. bus crash that killed pregnant lacrosse coach, driver
Police are investigating what caused a bus carrying a college women’s lacrosse team to veer off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and crash into a tree, killing a pregnant coach, her unborn child and the driver.
Players and coaches from Seton Hill University, near Pittsburgh, were among 23 people aboard when the bus crashed Saturday morning. The team was headed to an afternoon game at Millersville University, about 50 miles from the crash site in central Pennsylvania.
Head coach Kristina Quigley, 30, of Greensburg, died of her injuries at a hospital, Cumberland County authorities said. Quigley was about six months pregnant and her unborn son didn’t survive. The bus driver, Anthony Guaetta, 61, of Johnstown, died at the scene.
Two victims flown to Penn State Hershey Medical Center remained there Sunday, and no information was released about their identities or conditions. A woman injured in the crash was discharged Sunday afternoon from another hospital. All others aboard the bus were taken to hospitals as a precaution, but almost all were treated and released.
Police couldn’t immediately say what had caused the crash. The front side of the bus, which was towed from the scene Saturday night, was shorn away, and the vehicle came to rest upright about 70 yards from the highway at the bottom of a grassy slope.