Thursday March 28, 2013

Lawyers: Colo. theater shooting suspect offers to plead guilty to avoid death penalty

DENVER (AP) -- Lawyers for Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes said Wednesday he would plead guilty and serve the rest of his life in prison to avoid the death penalty.

The offer comes just days before the prosecution was set to announce whether they would seek to have Holmes put to death for the attack that killed 12 people and injured 70.

Prosecutors wouldn’t say Wednesday whether they’d go along with a plea deal, and likely will consult with victims and their families before deciding whether to accept the offer.

If they agree, the case that started July 20 -- when prosecutors say Holmes carried out the midnight massacre during a showing of the new Batman movie -- could end quickly. In the filing, defense attorneys say the only thing that would hinder Holmes changing his plea on Monday is the prosecution’s decision.

In the filing, Holmes’ lawyers said they initially made the offer to plead guilty before Holmes’ arraignment on March 12. At that hearing, Holmes’ attorneys told a judge they weren’t ready to enter a plea in the case, and the judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.


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Cyprus: cash withdrawals capped at 300 euros, no checks to be cashed

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) -- Banks in Cyprus are to open for the first time in more than a week on Thursday, operating for six hours from noon (10:00 GMT), but restrictions will be in place on financial transactions to prevent people from draining their accounts.

Among the capital controls, cash withdrawals will be limited to 300 euros ($383) per person each day. No checks will be cashed, although people will be able to deposit them in their accounts, according to a ministerial decree that was released late Thursday.

The controls will be in place for four days.

Cyprus’s banks were closed on March 16 as politicians scrambled to come up with a plan to raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion) so the country would qualify for 10 billion euros ($12.9 billion) in much-need bailout loans for its collapsed banking sector. The deal was finally reached in Brussels early Monday, and imposes severe losses on deposits of over 100,000 euros in the country’s two largest banks, Laiki and Bank of Cyprus.

Since Monday’s deal, Cypriot authorities have been rushing to introduce measures to prevent a rush of euros out of the country’s banks when they do reopen.

Newly released documents provide fresh look at Ariz. shooting rampage that wounded Giffords

PHOENIX (AP) -- Documents released Wednesday detailing the shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords show how the gunman had grown increasingly erratic and delusional in the months leading up to the rampage as he alienated friends and family and became paranoid that police were out to get him.

The roughly 2,700 pages included witness and survivor accounts from people who helped save Giffords’ life after she was shot in the head outside a Tucson supermarket in 2011 during a meet-and-greet with constituents. Six people were killed and 11 others were wounded.

The files also provide the first glimpse into gunman Jared Lee Loughner’s family. His parents have said nothing publicly beyond a brief statement after the attack, but records show they were trying to deal with a son who had grown nearly impossible to communicate with.

"I tried to talk to him. But you can’t. He wouldn’t let you," his father, Randy Loughner, told police. "Lost, lost and just didn’t want to communicate with me no more."

"Sometimes you’d hear him in his room, like, having conversations," said his mother, Amy Loughner. "And sometimes he would look like he was having a conversation with someone right there, be talking to someone. I don’t know how to explain it."

McCain, 3 other senators promise immigration overhaul by April after tour of US-Mexico border

NOGALES, Ariz. (AP) -- A group of influential U.S. senators shaping and negotiating details of an immigration reform package vowed Wednesday to make the legislation public when Congress reconvenes next month as negotiations reopened between union workers and business groups over visas for low-skilled workers.

The visa talks were left in limbo Friday as Congress went into recess, but the senators said both sides had signaled they were open to compromise and were finalizing details Wednesday.

The reassurances came after the four senators -- Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York and Michael Bennet of Colorado -- toured the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona to get a firsthand look at security issues affecting the region. They are all members of the so-called Gang of Eight -- a bipartisan group that has spent recent weeks trying to craft proposed immigration legislation.

"You can read and you can study and you can talk but until you see things it doesn’t change reality," Schumer said. "I’ll be able to explain it to my colleagues. Many of my colleagues say, ‘Why do we need to do anything more on the border?’ and we do."

The trip came as the lawmakers wrap up a bill designed to secure the border and put 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship.

Ripple effects across Web as spam-blocking group Spamhaus hit by record-smashing cyberattack

LONDON (AP) -- A record-breaking cyberattack targeting an anti-spam watchdog group has sent ripples of disruption coursing across the Web, experts said Wednesday.

Spamhaus, a site responsible for keeping ads for counterfeit Viagra and bogus weight-loss pills out of the world’s inboxes, said it had been buffeted by the monster denial-of-service attack since mid-March, apparently from groups angry at being blacklisted by the Swiss-British group.

"It is a small miracle that we’re still online," Spamhaus researcher Vincent Hanna said.

Denial-of-service attacks overwhelm a server with traffic -- like hundreds of letters being jammed through a mail slot at the same time. Security experts measure those attacks in bits of data per second. Recent cyberattacks -- like the ones that caused persistent outages at U.S. banking sites late last year -- have tended to peak at 100 billion bits per second.

But the furious assault on Spamhaus has shattered the charts, clocking in at 300 billion bits per second, according to San Francisco-based CloudFlare Inc., which Spamhaus has enlisted to help it weather the attack.

Nearly 40 years after Cherokee’s debut, Jeep takes a risk with radical new style

DETROIT (AP) -- The Jeep Cherokee is back, with a surprising design that could win some new buyers but lose some old fans.

The 2014 Cherokee midsize SUV made its debut Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show. The remake is so radical that observers might not realize it’s a Jeep.

The new Cherokee ditches Jeep’s traditional boxy look for a more aerodynamic style. It replaces the brand’s signature round headlights with sharply angled slits. The interior is plush and full of luxury options like automatic parallel parking. Even Jeep’s seven-slat grille didn’t go untouched -- it’s much smaller and creased in the middle to fold over the Cherokee’s nose.

It’s a look more reminiscent of a Honda CR-V than the model it replaces -- the Liberty -- and past Cherokees that helped establish Jeep as a symbol of toughness and off-road adventure.

All this isn’t sitting well with some Jeep fans, who say the 72-year-old brand is straying too far from its rugged, utilitarian roots. They bemoan the new styling and softer ride, saying it’s more suited for a trip to the mall than the Rubicon trail.

Toll takers bid farewell to Golden Gate Bridge as electronic payment system takes over

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Drivers approaching the majestic Golden Gate Bridge experienced something new on Wednesday-- no human toll collectors.

The workers were removed in favor of cheaper and faster electronic transponders, and a camera system that photographs every license plate that comes through, mailing an invoice to each motorist who doesn’t prepay.

Those who fail to pay will receive warnings and could eventually have a hold placed on their vehicle registration at the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

In addition to saving money, the move is expected to improve traffic flow on the iconic span that opened in 1937. The California Highway Patrol said traffic was flowing smoothly, with no delays early Wednesday.

On Tuesday, when their final shifts working on the bridge ended, the toll takers said their goodbyes. They forced their mouths into smiles, hugged each other tightly and cried as they left their booths for the last time.