Thursday April 18, 2013

Britain’s Iron Lady -- Margaret Thatcher --laid to rest with
full pomp

LONDON (AP) -- Margaret Thatcher was laid to rest Wednesday with prayers and ceremony, plus cheers and occasional jeers, as Britain paused to remember a leader who transformed the country -- for the better according to many, but in some eyes for the worse.

Soaring hymns, Biblical verse and fond remembrances echoed under the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, as 2,300 relatives, friends, colleagues and dignitaries attended a ceremonial funeral for Britain’s only female prime minister.

Queen Elizabeth II, current and former prime ministers and representatives from 170 countries were among the mourners packing the cathedral, where Bishop of London Richard Chartres spoke of the strong feelings Thatcher still evokes 23 years after leaving office.

"The storm of conflicting opinions centers on the Mrs. Thatcher who became a symbolic figure -- even an -ism," he said. "It must be very difficult for those members of her family and those closely associated with her to recognize the wife, the mother and the grandmother in the mythological figure."

"There is an important place for debating policies and legacy ... but here and today is neither the time nor the place," he added.

Security for the funeral -- the largest in London for more than a decade -- was tightened after bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday.

More than 700 soldiers, sailors and air force personnel formed a ceremonial guard along the route taken by Thatcher’s coffin to the cathedral, and around 4,000 police officers were on duty.

But while thousands of supporters and a smaller number of opponents traded shouts and arguments, there was no serious trouble. Police said there were no arrests, and the only items thrown at the cortege were flowers.

Before the service, Thatcher’s coffin was driven from the Houses of Parliament to the church of St. Clement Danes for prayers.

From there the coffin -- draped in a Union flag and topped with white roses and a note from her children Mark and Carol reading "Beloved mother, always in our hearts" -- was borne to the cathedral on a gun carriage drawn by six black horses.

Spectators lining the route broke into applause as the carriage passed by, although a few demonstrators staged silent protests by turning their backs on Thatcher’s coffin. One man held a banner declaring "rest in shame."

Records show ex-official’s wife implicated husband as triggerman in Texas DA slayings

KAUFMAN, Texas (AP) -- The wife of a former North Texas justice of the peace implicated her husband in the shooting deaths of a local district attorney, his wife and an assistant prosecutor, according to court records filed Wednesday.

An arrest affidavit revealed Kim Lene Williams told investigators Tuesday that her husband, Eric Lyle Williams, was the triggerman in the slayings of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, and assistant prosecutor Mark Hasse. McLelland and Hasse prosecuted Eric Williams last year for theft of three computer monitors.

Kim Williams was arrested early Wednesday and charged with capital murder. Eric Williams has been in custody, charged with making terroristic threats. He has not been charged in the slayings.

The affidavit says Kim Williams "described in detail her role along with that of her husband." However, the document does not outline what Kill Williams’ alleged role was.

After Eric Williams was convicted of theft, he lost his elected position as justice of the peace -- a judge who handles mostly administrative duties -- and his law license. He was sentenced to probation.

Assad accuses
West of backing
al-Qaida in Syria,
says it will pay price

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syria’s president accused the West on Wednesday of backing al-Qaida in his country’s civil war, warning it will pay a price "in the heart" of Europe and the United States as the terror network becomes emboldened.

Bashar Assad also lashed out at Jordan for allowing "thousands" of fighters to enter Syria through its borders and warned that the "fire will not stop at Syria’s border."

The rare TV interview with the government-run Al-Ikhbariya channel marking Syria’s independence day comes as the embattled president’s military is fighting to reverse rebel advances, with a rocket attack killing at least 12 people in a central village on Wednesday.

"Just as the West financed al-Qaida in Afghanistan in its beginnings, and later paid a heavy price, today it is supporting it in Syria, Libya and other places and will pay the price later in the heart of Europe and the United States," Assad said.

He offered no evidence to back his charge that the U.S. was now backing the international terror group responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

In campaign hinging on forgiveness, Mark Sanford faces ex-wife’s accusation of trespassing

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) -- Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s political comeback already hinged on persuading conservative voters in the state’s Lowcountry to forgive him for past infidelity and political mistakes. Now he’ll have to do it with his ex-wife accusing him of repeatedly trespassing in her home.

That revelation prompted the National Republican Congressional Committee to pull its support from the campaign Wednesday, a day after The Associated Press obtained court documents detailing the accusations from Sanford’s ex-wife, Jenny.

The group, which had conducted polling and provided additional resources to the campaign, was blindsided by the news and said it wouldn’t provide more funding or pay for television advertising because officials worried Sanford would have difficulty making inroads with women voters. That blow effectively leaves Sanford on his own with three weeks to go before Election Day.

The latest Federal Election Commission reports still show that Sanford had $272,000 on hand to about $210,000 for Elizabeth Colbert Busch, his opponent in the race for a vacant seat in the state’s 1st Congressional District.

"Mark Sanford has proven he knows what it takes to win elections. At this time, the NRCC will not be engaged in this special election," said Andrea Bozek, an NRCC spokeswoman. The decision was first reported by Politico.

Chief of Venezuela’s Supreme Court: No legal basis for recount demanded by opposition

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuela’s Supreme Court president said Wednesday there is no legal basis for holding a vote-by-vote recount that opposition candidate Henrique Capriles is demanding for the disputed presidential election.

It was the latest indication that the governing system left behind by Hugo Chavez when he died of cancer last month has no intention of agreeing to Capriles’ request. He claims Sunday’s election was stolen from him.

Capriles has not formally filed a request for a recount with the National Electoral Council, which on Monday ratified Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s anointed successor, as the winner. The council says Maduro won with 50.8 percent of the vote to Capriles’ 49 percent.

Judge Luisa Estela Morales, the Supreme Court chief, said Venezuela’s voting system is so automated that a manual count doesn’t exist. Technically, however, a recount is possible as paper receipts are issued for every vote cast and can be checked against tallies done by each voting machine, voter registries and centralized records.

"This presumed instigation to a manual count has angered many Venezuelans," said Morales, whose court, like all of Venezuela’s national government institutions, is packed with Chavista loyalists. What was unusual about her statement is that it was impromptu, unrelated to any specific court case.

American Airlines resumes most flights after massive computer failure grounds fleet

DALLAS (AP) -- American Airlines resumed most flights Wednesday, a day after a massive technology failure forced the nation’s third-largest carrier to ground all planes from coast to coast.

Some lingering problems remained. At midday, American and regional offshoot American Eagle had canceled more than 200 flights, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.com. But that was a huge improvement over Tuesday, when American and Eagle cancelled nearly 1,000 flights and delayed another 1,100.

"Our operations returned to normal this morning," American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said.

Some of Wednesday’s cancellations were because of bad weather in Chicago and a lack of crews and planes in the right places. The airline added five unscheduled flights to accommodate passengers stranded in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles, Huguely said.

The company blamed the breakdown on a "software issue" that knocked out both primary and backup computer reservation systems, which are also used for everything from issuing boarding passes to determining how much fuel to pump into planes.

New delay ordered
in Sept. 11 case
at Guantanamo

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) -- A military judge has agreed to postpone the next round of hearings in the Sept. 11 case at Guantanamo after thousands of defense emails were turned over to the prosecution in an apparent mistake.

Army Col. Judge James Pohl agreed to postpone next week’s hearings at the U.S. base in Cuba until June.

Defense lawyers said computer technicians may have compromised their case by mistakenly turning over more than 500,000 of their emails to prosecutors. A Pentagon computer crash also resulted in the loss of a large amount of data.

The Pentagon said prosecutors did not read the defense’s emails. The death penalty case for the five Guantanamo prisoners charged in the Sept. 11 case has been repeatedly delayed and the trial is likely at least a year away.

Washington delays marijuana grower, processor licenses

SEATTLE (AP) -- Washington state is delaying its timeline for granting marijuana growing and processing licenses -- and that means legal marijuana sales likely won’t begin before spring of next year.

Rather than issue growing licenses this summer and processor licenses this fall, as called for in a tentative prior timeline, the Liquor Control Board will issue all licenses Dec. 1, spokesman Brian Smith said Wednesday.

That means the growers likely won’t be able to get to work until December, and the final product probably won’t be ready for a couple of months after that.

Washington joined Colorado last fall in becoming the first states to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over 21, and to allow the sale of taxed pot at state-licensed stores. Washington’s Liquor Control Board has been devising rules for the industry, covering topics such as how the plants will be grown, how marijuana products will be tested for strength and quality, and how many retail stores will be allowed.

Issuing all the licenses at once will help growers because they’ll have a better picture of the industry before they begin growing, Smith said.

"If you were interested in becoming any of our licensees, you’d want to have a good idea of what the business landscape is going to be," he said. "For example, if you want to grow, how much competition will you have? How many retailers will there be? You’ll be able to get a sense of that right from the beginning."

The official timeline announced Wednesday was based on input from public forums that the board held around the state regarding its implementation of Initiative 502.

The board will begin vetting draft rules for all license types with stakeholders in mid-May. The rules are expected to become effective in August, and the board will begin accepting applications for growing, processing and retailing licenses in September.

Iraq executes 21 men convicted of terrorism

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraq has executed 21 prisoners convicted on terrorism charges and links to al-Qaida, the Justice Ministry said Wednesday, setting off fresh criticism from a human rights expert over Baghdad’s insistence on enforcing capital punishment.

The prisoners were executed by hanging in the Iraqi capital on Tuesday, according to a statement posted on the ministry’s website. All the convicts were Iraqi al-Qaida operatives who were involved in bombings, car bomb attacks and assassinations, the statement said.

The hangings brought the number of prisoners executed in Iraq so far this year to 50, according to Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim. The latest group was the biggest this year, Ibrahim added.

According to the London-based Amnesty International, Iraq ranked fourth among the top five executioners in the world in 2011, after China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. Last year Iraq executed 129 people, triggering concerns among rights groups over whether defendants had received fair trials.

After the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, coalition officials suspended Iraq’s death penalty, but it was reinstated in 2004 by Iraq’s transitional government. Since 2005, Iraq’s government has executed 422 people, including women and foreigners convicted on terrorism charges.