Prosecution to wrap up arguments as Oscar Pistorius bail hearing nears decision
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The fourth and likely final day of Oscar Pistorius’ bail hearing opened on Friday, with the magistrate then to rule if the double-amputee athlete can be freed before trial or if he has to remain in custody over the shooting death of his girlfriend.
The prosecution is expected to complete its arguments opposing bail. The defense rested on Thursday, and Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair can issue a ruling on bail at any time after arguments finish.
Pistorius is charged with one count of premediated murder over the Feb. 14 killing of Reeva Steenkamp. He says the shooting was accidental because he thought she was a dangerous intruder inside his home.
Steenkamp’s Valentine’s Day killing has seized the world’s attention and there was intense focus Friday on if Pistorius would be released, and if so, with what conditions.
Pistorius’ hands trembled as he said ‘‘good morning, your worship’’ as the court session began in Pretoria Magistrate’s Court, in South Africa’s capital.
Egypt’s Islamist president calls parliamentary elections in April amid turmoil, impasse
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s Islamist president has called parliamentary elections for April in an effort to assuage mounting frustration over continued turmoil on the streets and a political impasse that has gripped the nation.
A decree by President Mohammed Morsi issued late Thursday set the start of a staggered, four-stage voting process for April 27, with the last round to be held in June. The newly elected parliament would then convene for its first session on July 6, the decree said.
Since the 2011 ouster of longtime authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising that was part of the Arab Spring revolts, Egyptians have gone through a series of referendums, presidential and parliamentary elections. The first elected parliament was disbanded by a court order last June and Morsi, the nation’s first freely elected president, assumed his post in July.
Morsi and his highly organized Muslim Brotherhood, which was a banned opposition group under Mubarak, emerged from the uprising and the various elections as the country’s dominant political group with the largest grass root support.
But the divisions in Egypt have only grown, pitting the Brotherhood and their fundamentalist Islamists allies on one side and the mostly secular, liberal political parties and youth groups on the other.
Cocky ex-cop Drew Peterson screams his innocence, gets 38 years in prison for wife’s murder
JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Drew Peterson showed nearly no emotion during his trial, yet the once famously jocular ex-Illinois police officer screamed out his innocence before he was sentenced to 38 years in prison for his third wife’s death in an outburst that suggested reality may be settling in.
‘‘I did not kill Kathleen!’’ Peterson shouted as he leaned into a courtroom microphone Thursday, emphasizing each of the five words.
Without missing a beat, his dead wife’s sister, Susan Doman, shouted back, ‘‘Yes, you did! You liar!’’ before the judge ordered sheriff’s deputies to remove her from the courtroom.
For years, Peterson casually dismissed and even joked about suggestions he killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004, or that he was behind the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.
His sudden explosion of fury Thursday as he stepped up to address the judge who would sentence him for Savio’s death left spectators gasping. Lead state prosecutor James Glasgow said it exposed the real Drew Peterson — the one more than capable of murder.
Snowstorm promising messy Upper Midwest commute after shuttering Mo. airports, blanketing Kan.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A major snow storm that shuttered airports in Missouri, stranded truckers in Illinois and buried parts of Kansas in knee-deep powder was promising a messy and possibly dangerous commute Friday morning as it crawled northeast.
Wind gusts of 30 mph were expected to churn-up snow that fell overnight in southern Wisconsin, where forecasters were warning Milwaukee-area residents of slick roads and reduced visibility. The same was expected in northeast Iowa, where residents could wake up to as much as 7 inches of new snow, while nearly 200 snowplows were deployed overnight in Chicago.
At a Travel Centers of America truck stop in the central Illinois city of Effingham, all of the 137 parking spaces were filled by truckers unwilling to drive through the storm overnight.
‘‘When it gets really bad, they like to camp out,’’ cashier Tia Schneider said Thursday night, noting that some drivers called ahead. ‘‘They can make reservations from 500 miles away to make sure a space is available.’’
The storm system swirled to the north and east late Thursday, its snow, sleet and freezing rain prompting winter storm across the region — and leaving some impressive snow accumulations.
Police hunting for Range Roger involved in Las Vegas shooting, fiery crash that killed 3
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Police searched Friday for a Range Rover with dark tinted windows and custom rims that set off a fiery crash on the Las Vegas Strip when someone in the luxury SUV opened fire on a Maserati in a scene that onlookers described as worthy of an action flick.
Three people were killed and at least six more were injured in what marked the latest in a series of violent episodes in Las Vegas in recent months.
Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie told reporters the shooting was sparked by an argument in the valet area of the nearby Aria hotel-casino, and spilled over to one of the busiest intersections on the Las Vegas Strip. As bullets flew from the Range Rover, the Maserati ran a red light and smashed into a taxi that exploded into flames, killing the driver and a passenger. The driver of the Maserati was also killed, and his passenger was wounded.
Police have not released the identities of the victims.
Three more cars and a utility truck also collided as the Range Rover sped off in the darkness at about 4:30 a.m.
’I’m a monster, God won’t forgive me’ — Troop shame over killing may rival PTSD cases
WASHINGTON (AP) — A veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, former Marine Capt. Timothy Kudo thinks of himself as a killer — and he carries the guilt every day.
‘‘I can’t forgive myself,’’ he says. “And the people who can forgive me are dead.’’
With American troops at war for more than a decade, there’s been an unprecedented number of studies into war zone psychology and an evolving understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder. Clinicians suspect some troops are suffering from what they call ‘‘moral injuries’’ — wounds from having done something, or failed to stop something, that violates their moral code.
Though there may be some overlap in symptoms, moral injuries aren’t what most people think of as PTSD, the nightmares and flashbacks of terrifying, life-threatening combat events. A moral injury tortures the conscience; symptoms include deep shame, guilt and rage. It’s not a medical problem, and it’s unclear how to treat it, says retired Col. Elspeth Ritchie, former psychiatry consultant to the Army surgeon general.
‘‘The concept ... is more an existentialist one,’’ she says.
Government payrolls, non-benefit programs shrinking amid GOP demands for even more cuts
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans and other fiscal conservatives keep insisting on more federal austerity and a smaller government. Without much fanfare or acknowledgement, they’ve already gotten much of both.
Spending by federal, state and local governments on payrolls, equipment, buildings, teachers, emergency workers, defense programs and other core governmental functions has been shrinking steadily since the deep 2007-2009 recession and as the anemic recovery continues.
This recent shrinkage has largely been obscured by an increase in spending on benefit payments to individuals under ‘‘entitlement’’ programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans benefits. Retiring baby boomers are driving much of this increase.
Another round of huge cuts — known in Washington parlance as the ‘‘sequester’’ — will hit beginning March 1, potentially meaning layoffs for hundreds of thousands of federal workers unless Congress and President Barack Obama can strike a deficit-reduction deal to avert them.
With the deadline only a week off, Obama and Republicans who control the House are far apart over how to resolve the deadlock. While last-minute budget deals are frequent in Washington, neither side is optimistic of reaching one this time.
Indian police search for evidence in dual bomb attack that killed 15 people in southern city
HYDERABAD, India (AP) — Indian police investigating a dual bomb attack that killed 15 people outside a movie theater and a bus station in the southern city of Hyderabad were searching for links to a shadowy Islamic militant group with reported ties to Pakistan, an official said Friday.
Officials were examining whether the Indian Mujahideen, which is thought to have a link with militants in neighboring Pakistan, might have carried out the attack, an investigator told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal details of the probe. India’s recent execution of an Islamic militant is being examined as a possible motive for the bombings, he said.
Police have not yet detained anyone in connection with Thursday evening’s attacks, the first major terror bombings in India since 2011.
According to a New Delhi police report, two suspected militants belonging to the Indian Mujahideen group who were arrested last year, said during questioning that they had done a reconnaissance of Dilsukh Nagar district in Hyderabad where the blasts occurred. They had also visited various spots in New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said there was a general alert about the possibility of an attack somewhere in India for the past three days. ‘‘But there was no specific intelligence about a particular place,’’ he said as he toured the site Friday morning.
Oscar-nominated animated film directors ready to be taken seriously
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — In the animated feature film category at this year’s Oscars, there’s a film set in medieval Scotland, another that features old-school video game characters, one that relies heavily on dry British humor, while the other two take inspiration from the supernatural.
It’s not exactly kid stuff — and that’s how the directors like it.
‘‘I think this year with these films — and so many more — the envelope for animation is being pushed,’’ said ‘‘Brave’’ director Mark Andrews at an Academy Awards event Thursday night honoring the animated feature film nominees. ‘‘We keep seeing more risky, deep films that we wouldn’t have seen 10 years ago coming out. I wanna be one of those guys pushing it more and more and more because it’s not only an awesome medium, but there’s so many more stories that we can tell.’’
The Scotland-set ‘‘Brave,’’ a darker fable from Pixar about a rebellious red-headed princess named Merida, will face off against four other animated films at Sunday’s 85th annual Academy Awards. The category was first introduced at the 2002 ceremony, with ‘‘Shrek’’ winning the inaugural trophy.
Despite the less lighthearted tone of this year’s animated nominees, none cracked the best picture category for a spot alongside the likes of ‘‘Argo,’’ ‘’Lincoln’’ and ‘‘Zero Dark Thirty.’’ (Only three animated films have ever been nominated for best picture at the Oscars: ‘‘Beauty and the Beast,’’ ‘’Up’’ and ‘‘Toy Story 3.’’)
To battle a slithery enemy, US to air-drop mice laced with drugs toxic to Guam tree snakes
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AP) — Dead mice laced with painkillers are about to rain down on Guam’s jungle canopy. They are scientists’ prescription for a headache that has caused the tiny U.S. territory misery for more than 60 years: the brown tree snake.
Most of Guam’s native bird species are extinct because of the snake, which reached the island’s thick jungles by hitching rides from the South Pacific on U.S. military ships shortly after World War II. There may be 2 million of the reptiles on Guam now, decimating wildlife, biting residents and even knocking out electricity by slithering onto power lines.
More than 3,000 miles away, environmental officials in Hawaii have long feared a similar invasion — which in their case likely would be a ‘‘snakes on a plane’’ scenario. That would cost the state many vulnerable species and billions of dollars, but the risk will fall if Guam’s air-drop strategy succeeds.
‘‘We are taking this to a new phase,’’ said Daniel Vice, assistant state director of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in Hawaii, Guam, and the Pacific Islands. ‘‘There really is no other place in the world with a snake problem like Guam.’’
Brown tree snakes are generally a few feet (1 meter) long but can grow to be more than 10 feet (3 meters) in length. Most of Guam’s native birds were defenseless against the nocturnal, tree-based predators, and within a few decades of the reptile’s arrival, nearly all of them were wiped out.