Saturday July 13, 2013

Snowden emerges from hiding in Moscow airport, says he wants asylum in Russia

MOSCOW (AP) -- Edward Snowden emerged from weeks of hiding in a Moscow airport Friday, still defiant but willing to stop leaking secrets about U.S. surveillance programs if Russia will give him asylum until he can move on to Latin America.

Snowden’s meeting with Russian officials and rights activists cleared up uncertainty about where the former National Security Agency systems analyst is, but left open the big question: What comes next?

Snowden said he was ready to meet President Vladimir Putin’s condition that he stop leaking secrets if it means Russia would give him shelter that could eventually help him get to Latin America. There was no immediate response from Putin’s office, but speakers of both houses of the Kremlin-controlled parliament spoke in support of Snowden’s plea.

Vyacheslav Nikonov, a senior lawmaker with the main Kremlin party, described Snowden as "a bit nervous but smiling" and noted his "perfect haircut." He said that when asked to describe his stay at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, Snowden answered with one word: "Safe."

Snowden is believed to have been stuck in the airport’s transit zone since his arrival on June 23 from Hong Kong, where he had gone before his revelations were made public. He booked a seat on a Cuba-bound flight the next day, but did not get on the plane and had remained out of the public eye until Friday.

Al-Qaida-linked gunmen kill Syrian rebel leader, sign of tension among moderate, jihadists

BEIRUT (AP) -- Al-Qaida-linked gunmen killed a rebel commander in Syria aligned with the Western-backed militias fighting against Bashar Assad’s regime, the highest-profile casualty of growing tensions between moderate and jihadi fighters among rebel forces.

Observers worried Friday that the commander’s death will increase distrust and suspicion between forces already at odds over territory and leadership as the nearly three-year civil war continues in Syria.

Loay AlMikdad, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, said Friday that members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- a group reportedly made up of al-Qaida’s branches in Iraq and Syria -- were behind the killing of Kamal Hamami. Hamami, known as Abu Basir, served in the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, a group headed by a secular-minded moderate that has the support of Western powers.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said gunmen shot Hamami dead late Thursday after militants tried to remove a checkpoint he set up in the Jabal al-Turkoman mountain in the coastal province of Latakia. The observatory said two of his men were seriously wounded in the shooting.

AlMikdad told Al-Arabiya TV that Hamami "was assassinated at the hands of the forces of evil and crime at one of the checkpoints." He added that the group that killed Hamami "should hand over those who carried out this act to stand trial."

Tens of thousands of Islamists demand reinstatement of ousted Egyptian president

CAIRO (AP) -- Tens of thousands of Islamists rallied Friday in cities across Egypt, vowing to sustain for months their campaign to restore deposed President Mohammed Morsi to power.

Ten days after the military coup that toppled him, however, Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and its allies appear to have failed to bring a significantly wider segment of Egyptian society into the streets on their side.

The new military-backed administration of interim President Mansour Adly, along with the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the most prominent Sunni Muslim institution, floated offers for "national reconciliation." Newly appointed Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi is reportedly promising to finish assembling his Cabinet by next week, a government official told Egypt’s state news agency. A presidential spokesman has said the Muslim Brotherhood will be offered posts.

The Brotherhood remains steadfast in its opposition, saying its supporters will stay in the streets for as long as it takes to force the reinstatement of Morsi, who was overthrown July 3 after four days of massive protests demanding his ouster.

At the main Islamist rally in Cairo, the crowd poured into a large boulevard in front of the Rabaah al-Adawiya Mosque, where Morsi supporters have been camped for two weeks.

Jury starts deliberating in Zimmerman murder trial; police ask for peace after verdict

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- With police and civic leaders urging calm, a jury began deliberating George Zimmerman’s fate Friday after hearing dueling portraits of the neighborhood watch captain: a cop wannabe who took the law into his own hands or a well-meaning volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin because he feared for his life.

As the jury got the murder case, police in this Orlando suburb went on national television to plead for peace in Sanford and across the country, no matter what the verdict.

"There is no party in this case who wants to see any violence," Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said. "We have an expectation upon this announcement that our community will continue to act peacefully."

During closing arguments, Zimmerman’s lawyers put a concrete slab and two life-size cardboard cutouts in front of the jury box in one last attempt to convince the panel Zimmerman shot the unarmed black 17-year-old in self-defense while his head was being slammed against the pavement.

Attorney Mark O’Mara used the slab to make the point that it could serve as a weapon. He showed the cutouts of Zimmerman and Martin to demonstrate that the teenager was considerably taller. And he displayed a computer-animated depiction of the fight based on Zimmerman’s account.

At least 6 dead in France train derailment on eve of major holiday weekend; dozens injured

BRETIGNY-SUR-ORGE, France (AP) -- A train carrying hundreds of passengers derailed and crashed into a station outside Paris on Friday on one of the busiest days of the year for vacation getaways. At least six people were killed and dozens were injured, officials said.

The crash was the deadliest in France in several years. French President Francois Hollande rushed to the scene at the Bretigny-sur-Orge station, 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Paris. The Interior Ministry said some 192 people were either injured or being treated for shock -- of which nine were in a critical condition.

Four of the seven train cars slid toward the station, crushing part of the metallic roof over the platform. Images on French television and on Twitter showed gnarled metal and shards on the platform, and debris from the crash clogging the stairwell leading beneath the platform.

Some 300 firefighters, 20 medical teams and eight helicopters were deployed to get survivors out of the metal wreckage, according to the Interior Ministry.

The accident came as France is preparing to celebrate its most important national holiday, Bastille Day, on Sunday, and as masses of vacationers are heading out of Paris and other big cities to see family or for summer vacation.

Police say fire truck hit girl after Asiana Airlines crash but it’s unclear if that killed her

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- One of the two Chinese teenagers killed in the Asiana Airlines disaster was hit by a fire truck while covered with firefighting foam, authorities said Friday, revealing a startling detail that suggested she could have survived the crash only to die in its chaotic aftermath.

However, it wasn’t clear whether Ye Meng Yuan, 16, was already dead when the collision occurred or whether the truck killed her moments after Saturday’s crash.

"The first truck did go over the victim at least one time. Now the other question is what was the cause of death?" police spokesman Albie Esparza said. "That’s what we are trying to determine right now."

The other victim, 16-year-old Wang Linjia, was dead when airport staff found her, authorities said Friday. Her body was near three flight attendants who were flung from the back of the plane when it broke open. They all survived.

San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said the results of his initial inquiry into the deaths would likely be released sometime next week. The coroner said both bodies arrived directly from the airport. He would not comment on the police investigation.

Suspect in kidnappings of 3 Ohio women missing for years indicted on hundreds of new charges

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Month after month, year after year, the decade-long ordeal of three Cleveland women takes shape in the charges against the man accused of imprisoning them: August 2002, kidnapping. October 2005, rape. November 2006, aggravated murder.

Christmas Day 2006, rape.

A new 977-count indictment filed Friday provides a numbing look at what prosecutors say was 10 years of captivity for the three women in suspect Ariel Castro’s home in a rough Cleveland neighborhood. Among the most serious charges: that he caused the death of one of his victims’ fetuses by punching and starving her.

Among the most haunting: that he assaulted the women throughout their captivity, causing psychological harm to them and to the daughter he fathered with one of them through assault. And in another newly unveiled accusation, the indictment also alleges that on the same day that the child was born, Christmas of 2006, Castro raped one of the other women, who had helped deliver the baby.

"Today’s indictment moves us closer to resolution of this gruesome case," Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said in a statement.

Woman describes ‘visions’ that led her to dead California boy; authorities confirm her role

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) -- Pam Ragland was watching a TV report about the search for an 11-year-old California boy missing in a rural town miles away when she felt something wasn’t right.

Ragland began crying and then a haunting vision popped into her head: A young boy lying on his side with his eyes closed.

The boy, Terry Dewayne Smith Jr., wasn’t sleeping -- and by the time Ragland’s visions stopped, she had led detectives to his decomposing body behind his house in the Riverside County community of Menifee.

The remains had been partially buried in a shallow grave under a tree more than 60 miles from Ragland’s Orange County home.

Authorities on Friday decided to charge the boy’s 16-year-old half-brother with murder. The teen is due in juvenile court on Monday, and prosecutors have requested a hearing to determine if he should be tried as an adult.

Egypt’s media embrace military after Morsi ouster, to dismay of press advocates

CAIRO (AP) -- When autocrat Hosni Mubarak fell after popular protests in 2011, journalist Sabah Hamamou hoped for change at her newspaper, Al-Ahram, the state-owned media flagship with an editorial line firmly controlled by the regime.

Hamamou and some of her fellow journalists held demonstrations, issued petitions and pressed editors for the paper to break from state dictates and adopt independent, objective coverage.

Change never came. First, the military rulers who took over after Mubarak tightly controlled the paper. Once Mohammed Morsi became president, his Muslim Brotherhood stepped in and pushed coverage their direction.

"What happened was they just put in their people in Al-Ahram and other state institutions, and nobody tried to reform the institutions themselves," Hamamou said. "The saying goes if you are confused about who is ruling Egypt, just look at the headlines of Al-Ahram."

Now Hamamou is dismayed to see the paper and other state media unquestionably embracing the military after its coup that ousted Morsi on July 3, following protests by millions around the country demanding his removal.