Monday April 8, 2013

Father of young U.S. diplomat killed in Afghanistan says she died doing what she loved

CHICAGO (AP) -- Anne Smedinghoff had a quiet ambition and displayed a love of global affairs from an early age, joining the U.S. Foreign Service straight out of college and volunteering for missions in perilous locations worldwide.

So when the 25-year-old suburban Chicago woman was killed Saturday in southern Afghanistan -- the first American diplomat to die on the job since last year’s attack in Benghazi, Libya -- her family took solace in the fact that she died doing something she loved.

"It was a great adventure for her ... She loved it," her father, Tom Smedinghoff, told The Associated Press on Sunday. "She was tailor-made for this job."

Anne Smedinghoff grew up in River Forest, Ill. -- an upscale suburb about 10 miles west of Chicago -- the daughter of an attorney and the second of four children. She attended the highly selective Fenwick High School, followed by Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in international studies and became a key organizer of the university’s annual Foreign Affairs Symposium in 2008. The event draws high-profile speakers from around the world.

Those who knew Smedinghoff described her as a positive, hard-working and dependable young woman.

Afghan government says NATO airstrike kills 11 children during bloody week in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A fierce battle between U.S.-backed Afghan forces and Taliban militants in a remote corner of eastern Afghanistan left nearly 20 people dead, including 11 Afghan children killed in an airstrike and an American civilian adviser, officials said Sunday.

The fighting along a main infiltration route from Pakistan on Saturday was indicative of a surge in hostilities as Afghanistan’s spring fighting season gets underway. This year’s will be closely watched because Afghan forces are having to contend with less support from the international military coalition, making it a test case of their ability to take on the country’s resilient insurgency.

The U.S.-led coalition confirmed that it launched airstrikes in Kunar province where the deaths occurred, stressing that they were requested by international forces. The coalition said it was assessing the incident, but could not confirm that civilians were killed.

The battle unfolded on Saturday, the same day that a total of six Americans, including three U.S. soldiers, died in violent attacks. In addition to the U.S. adviser killed during the operation in the east, two others -- a female foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department and an employee with the U.S. Defense Department -- died in a suicide bombing in southern Zabul province during a trip to donate books to Afghan students.

The deaths capped one of the bloodiest weeks of the nearly 12-year-old war. On Wednesday, insurgents ambushed a courthouse in the relatively safe west, killing more than 46 people.

Malloy: Gun lobbyists
seek sales, even to
mentally ill, those with criminal backgrounds

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy harshly criticized gun industry lobbyists on Sunday, saying they are doing too little to halt gun violence.

Just three days after he signed into law new restrictions on weapons and large-capacity magazines, the governor compared Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, to clowns and said lobbyists want to ensure that the industry can sell guns indiscriminately.

"Wayne reminds me of the clowns at the circus," Malloy said of LaPierre on CNN’s "State of the Union." "They get the most attention and that’s what he’s paid to do."

Representatives of the NRA did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

"What this is about is the ability of the gun industry to sell as many guns to as many people as possible even if they’re deranged, even if they’re mentally ill, even if they have a criminal background," Malloy said. "They don’t care. They want to sell guns."

Cold case arrest prompts multistate probe of suspected serial strangler

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- When Los Angeles cold case detectives caught up with Samuel Little this past fall, he was living in a Christian shelter in Kentucky, his latest arrest a few months earlier for alleged possession of a crack pipe. But the LA investigators wanted him on far more serious charges: The slayings of two women in 1989, both found strangled and nude below the waist -- victims of what police concluded had been sexually motivated strangulations.

Little’s name came up, police said, after DNA evidence collected at old crime scenes matched samples of his stored in a criminal database. After detectives say they found yet another match, a third murder charge was soon added against Little.

Now, as the 72-year-old former boxer and transient awaits trial in Los Angeles, authorities in numerous jurisdictions in California, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and Ohio are scouring their own cold case files for possible ties to Little. One old murder case, in Pascagoula, Miss., already has been reopened. DNA results are pending in some others.

Little’s more than 100-page rap sheet details crimes in 24 states spread over 56 years -- mostly assault, burglary, armed robbery, shoplifting and drug violations. In that time, authorities say incredulously, he served less than 10 years in prison.

But Los Angeles detectives allege he was also a serial killer, who traveled the country preying on prostitutes, drug addicts and troubled women.

Israeli researchers see surge in anti-Semitic incidents worldwide in 2012 after 2-year decline

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) -- Israeli researchers warned Sunday of a sudden upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks, topped by a deadly school shooting in France, noting a link to the rise of extremist parties in Europe.

The warnings emerge from an annual report on anti-Semitism in the world, released on the eve of Israel’s memorial day for the 6 million Jews killed by German Nazis and their collaborators in World War II.

The report noted a 30 percent jump in anti-Semitic violence and vandalism last year, after a two-year decline. It was issued at Tel Aviv University, in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress, an umbrella group representing Jewish communities across Europe.

The report recorded 686 attacks in 34 countries, ranging from physical violence to vandalism of synagogues and cemeteries, compared to 526 in 2011. It said 273 of the attacks last year, or 40 percent, involved violence against people.

The report linked the March, 2012 shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, where an extremist Muslim gunman killed four people, to a series of attacks that followed -- particularly in France, where physical assaults on Jews almost doubled.

A growing number of TV viewers don’t watch over cable, satellite or antenna, says Nielsen

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Some people have had it with TV. They’ve had enough of the 100-plus channel universe. They don’t like timing their lives around network show schedules. They’re tired of $100-plus monthly bills.

A growing number of them have stopped paying for cable and satellite TV service, and don’t even use an antenna to get free signals over the air. These people are watching shows and movies on the Internet, sometimes via cellphone connections. Last month, the Nielsen Co. started labeling people in this group "Zero TV" households, because they fall outside the traditional definition of a TV home. There are 5 million of these residences in the U.S., up from 2 million in 2007.

Winning back the Zero TV crowd will be one of the many issues broadcasters discuss at their national meeting, called the NAB Show, taking place this week in Las Vegas.

While show creators and networks make money from this group’s viewing habits through deals with online video providers and from advertising on their own websites and apps, broadcasters only get paid when they relay such programming in traditional ways. Unless broadcasters can adapt to modern platforms, their revenue from Zero TV viewers will be zero.

"Getting broadcast programing on all the gizmos and gadgets -- like tablets, the backseats of cars, and laptops -- is hugely important," says Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters.

Capriles supporters rally
in streets of Caracas

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- A general expectation that Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor will win next weekend’s presidential election didn’t dim the spirits of the tens of thousands backers of challenger Henrique Capriles, who jammed the capital’s center on Sunday.

Most of the people who converged by foot in the city center on a hot, sunny afternoon tried to shrug off forecasts of victory for Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn in as acting president after Hugo Chavez died March 5 following a long battle with cancer.

Chavez had defeated Capriles in October, but by the slimmest margin of his 14-year tenure as president.

Maduro, who rose from bus driver and union organizer to foreign minister under Chavez, is expected to benefit from an emotional outpouring of solidarity among Chavistas who have benefited from the generous social welfare state he created under the socialist banner.

But many critics contend that Maduro has been saddled with a fiscal hangover due to heavy Chavez spending ahead of October’s vote.

Jesus Barroso, a 52-year-old retiree, said he believes Maduro will win handily next Sunday. But he predicted Maduro would not be able complete the six-year term because economic and social woes would prompt Venezuelans to remove him through a recall.

"I don’t think he’ll last very long in the presidency," Barroso said.

Supporters of Capriles chanted anti-government slogans and waved red, yellow and blue Venezuelan flags as they converged on a main avenue in downtown Caracas, where the 40-year-old governor of central Miranda state, was scheduled to speak.

Upbeat demonstrators danced to music sound trucks, which blasted "Fresh Lie," a newly composed song by Puerto Rican salsa musician Willie Colon that pokes fun at Maduro.

Capriles has repeatedly accused Maduro of failing to resolve pressing problems including frequent power outages, crumbling infrastructure, shortages of basic foods and double-digit inflation, and supporters say Capriles can do better.

"He’s capable of offering opportunities to get us out of this disaster," said Maria De Llano, noting that she has difficulty finding some medicines and foods due to sporadic shortages.

Meanwhile, Maduro invoked Chavez yet again during a rally in the southern state of Apure, telling his backers that "El Comandante" is watching over them from Heaven.

"He’s protecting us," Maduro said. "Chavez, we are with your love ... We are not going to let you down."

A recent poll by the independent polling firm Datanalisis showed Capriles trailed Maduro 49 percent to 35 percent in a sampling of 800 voters from March 11-13. The poll, with 16 percent of respondents undecided, had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

Fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer, known for her tropical print dresses, dies in Fla. at 81

MIAMI (AP) -- Lilly Pulitzer hosted parties in her bare feet and wasn’t afraid to get a little messy -- just as long as she looked good and had fun, too.

In the late 1950s, the Palm Beach socialite had time to spare and a wealthy husband who owned citrus groves, so she opened an orange juice stand just off the island’s main shopping street. Pulitzer needed to hide all the juice stains on her clothes, though. Instead of just putting on an apron, she asked her seamstress to make some sleeveless dresses in colorful fruit prints, and a fashion staple was born.

Pulitzer died at her home Sunday, according to Quattlebaum Funeral and Cremation Services. She was 81.

Pulitzer’s tropical print dresses became a sensation in the 1960s when then-first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who attended boarding school with Pulitzer, wore one of the sleeveless shifts in a Life magazine photo spread.

The colorful revolution came as fashion shed its reliance on neutrals, and Pulitzer’s stuff was almost the housewife version of the more youthful mod look that was migrating from London.