South African police say lead investigator in Pistorius case faces attempted murder charges
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The lead investigator in the murder case against Oscar Pistorius faces attempted murder charges himself over a 2011 shooting, police said Thursday in another potentially damaging blow to the prosecution.
Prosecutors said they were unaware of the charges against veteran detective Hilton Botha when they put him on the stand in court to explain why Pistorius should not be given bail in the Valentine’s Day shooting death of his girlfriend.
Prosecutors say Pistorius intentionally killed model Reeva Steenkamp and have charged him with premeditated murder. Pistorius says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and that the shooting was accidental.
Police Brig. Neville Malila told The Associated Press that Botha — who gave testimony in the Pistorius bail hearing on Wednesday — is scheduled to appear in court in May on seven counts of attempted murder related to an incident in October 2011 when Botha and two other police officers fired at a minibus they were trying to stop.
Malila said police had learned Wednesday, the same day that Botha appeared in court to oppose Pistorius’ bail application, that the charges against Botha and the two others had been reinstated by the Director of Public Prosecutions. They were initially dropped following the shooting incident.
———
Obama administration considers urging Supreme Court to overturn California gay marriage ban
WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing heightened expectations from gay rights supporters, the Obama administration is considering urging the Supreme Court to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage — a move that could have a far-reaching impact on same-sex couples across the country.
The administration has one week to file a friend-of-the-court brief with the justices outlining its opinion on the California ban, known as Proposition 8. While an administration brief alone is unlikely to sway the high court, the government’s opinion does carry weight with the justices.
Opponents of the Proposition 8 ban believe the president signaled his intention to file a brief when he declared in last month’s inaugural address that gays and lesbians must be ‘‘treated like anyone else under the law.’’ An administration official said Obama — a former constitutional law professor — was not foreshadowing any legal action in his remarks and was simply restating his personal belief in the right of gays and lesbians to marry, though the official said the administration was considering filing a brief.
The Proposition 8 ballot initiative was approved by California voters in 2008 in response to a state Supreme Court decision that had allowed gay marriage. Twenty-nine other states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, while nine states and Washington, D.C., recognize same-sex marriage.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli is consulting with the White House on the matter, according to a senior administration official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to address the private deliberations publicly.
———
Winter storm gathers strength as it pushes into Great Plains, blamed for fatal Oklahoma crash
ST. LOUIS (AP) — An armada of snow plows and salt spreaders deployed Wednesday on highways across the nation’s heartland working to stay ahead of a powerful winter storm that already is blamed for one road death.
Winter storm warnings were issued from Colorado through Illinois, with as much as a foot of snow expected in several areas.
Kelly Sugden, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Dodge City, Kan., said early Thursday morning that the storm was moving a bit slower than was previously forecast but that it was ‘‘starting to get back together.’’
‘‘It’s very active,’’ Sugden said, noting the snowfall was mixed with lightning and sleet showers.
Sugden said Wednesday’s highest snowfall total for the state was 6 1/2 inches recorded in the tiny central town of Rozel. He said they were expecting heavy snow but not blizzard conditions. Still, he warned that the Interstate 70 corridor could see as much as 13 inches of snow with drifts adding to the danger for drivers.
———
Egypt’s Brotherhood suspected of running secretive outfits that mirror state institutions
CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi speaks publicly of firsthand knowledge of a meeting where opponents allegedly plotted against him.
A few months earlier, the most powerful man in his Muslim Brotherhood group, Khairat el-Shater, says he has access to recordings of former military rulers and electoral officials engineering his disqualification from last year’s presidential race.
In Egypt, those statements are seen by security officials, former members of the Islamist group and independent media as strong hints that the Brotherhood might be running its own intelligence-gathering network outside of government security agencies and official channels.
Such concerns dovetail the Brotherhood, which has a long history of operating clandestinely, to suspicion that it remains a shadowy group with operations that may overlap with the normal functions of a state.
Brotherhood supporters also demonstrated militia-like capabilities at anti-Morsi protests in December.
———
Disappointment permeates Jesse Jackson Jr’s former Chicago area district after guilty plea
CHICAGO (AP) — Residents in this swath of sprawling Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs have brimmed with loyalty to Jesse Jackson Jr. over the past 17 years, giving him an enthusiastic majority each election — even after questionable links to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, reports of an extramarital affair and a bizarre five-month medical leave.
But the former congressman’s guilty plea to charges that he lived off and lavishly spent campaign money for personal use — on everything from toilet paper to mink capes — has turned the tide. In territory where it was difficult to scrape up any criticism of Jackson, his Chicago alderman wife or his famous civil rights leader father, the mood is now simply one of disappointment.
‘‘He knew better; it was a very stupid thing to do,’’ said 75-year-old Jeannette Reese, shaking her head as she grocery-shopped at a busy shopping complex. ‘‘He and his father came to our church. I thought he was the real thing.’’
Reese said she had voted for the younger Jackson for years.
Jackson, who resigned from office in November, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Washington to criminal charges that he engaged in a scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items. He faces up to 57 months — more than four years — in prison and a fine, under a plea deal with prosecutors.
———
China hacking reveals outsourcing to private US firms in international cyberwar
WASHINGTON (AP) — When Kevin Mandia, a retired military cybercrime investigator, decided to expose China as a primary threat to U.S. computer networks, he didn’t have to consult with American diplomats in Beijing or declassify tactics to safely reveal government secrets.
He pulled together a 76-page report based on seven years of his company’s work and produced the most detailed public account yet of how, he says, the Chinese government has been rummaging through the networks of major U.S. companies.
It wasn’t news to Mandia’s commercial competitors, or the federal government, that systematic attacks could be traced back to a nondescript office building outside Shanghai that he believes was run by the Chinese army. What was remarkable was that the extraordinary details — code names of hackers, one’s affection for Harry Potter and how they stole sensitive trade secrets and passwords — came from a private security company without the official backing of the U.S. military or intelligence agencies that are responsible for protecting the nation from a cyberattack.
The report, embraced by stakeholders in both government and industry, represented a notable alignment of interests in Washington: The Obama administration has pressed for new evidence of Chinese hacking that it can leverage in diplomatic talks — without revealing secrets about its own hacking investigations — and Mandiant makes headlines with its sensational revelations.
The report also shows the balance of power in America’s cyberwar has shifted into the hands of the $30 billion-a-year computer security industry.
———
Guests disturbed, water tested after body of Canadian tourist found in LA hotel’s rooftop tank
LOS ANGELES (AP) — British tourist Michael Baugh and his wife said water had only trickled for days as they brushed their teeth, showered and drank from the taps at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, but they could not have imagined the disturbing reason.
The body of a Canadian woman was later discovered at the bottom of one of four cisterns on the roof of the historic hotel near Skid Row. The tanks provide water for hotel taps and would have been used by guests for washing and drinking.
‘‘The moment we found out, we felt a bit sick to the stomach, quite literally,’’ Baugh said.
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials were expected to release the results of tests on the water on Thursday.
When the body was discovered on Tuesday, they issued a do-not-drink order while a lab analyzes the water, said Terrance Powell, a director coordinating the department’s response. The disclosure contradicts a previous police statement that the water had been deemed safe.
———
Former Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico acknowledges having son outside marriage 3 decades ago
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — For nearly 40 years, Sen. Pete Domenici’s reputation was that of a well-respected — some might say staid — conservative Republican and honorable family man.
But the 80-year-old New Mexico political giant’s persona was shaken Wednesday with the revelation that he had an out-of-wedlock child in the 1970s and became embroiled in what might be described as an inside-the-Beltway soap opera.
While his wife Nancy was raising their eight children, Domenici had the affair and secret child with a woman about half his age — and who happened to be the daughter of one of his Senate colleagues. The woman raised the child on her own, became a prominent lobbyist, Republican activist and political commentator, and their 30-something son has since gone on to build an impressive Washington resume himself.
The saga shocked people in New Mexico who viewed Domenici as a man of honesty and integrity during his six terms and 36 years in the Senate that ended in 2008.
‘‘I deeply regret this and am very sorry for my behavior,’’ Domenici said in his statement. ‘‘I hope New Mexicans will view that my accomplishments for my beloved state outweigh my personal transgression.’’
———
Age-old Italian traditions provide buffers to crisis, keeping social peace — so far
VICENZA, Italy (AP) — Self-made Italians like Amedeo Tartarini never expected to need help.
Tartarini’s goldsmith business thrived for decades in Italy’s postwar boom. He was one of legions of small businessmen who made Italy an industrial power. With a house, money in the bank and a teeming workshop, the affable artisan never questioned his financial security — until it was too late.
As Italy’s financial crisis deepened, Tartarini ignored signs his business was failing, but persevered in the belief that skill would outshine cheaper competition from China. Hard work and quality, he was convinced, would protect him from the forces of globalization. They did not.
‘‘I always trusted it wouldn’t end this way for me,’’ Tartarini said, his eyes darkened with regret. ‘‘I had to sell all I had to continue, hoping to make it.’’
In many rich countries, a person like Tartarini, who has lost his home, his business and his life’s savings, might have ended up on the street. Instead, he has managed to keep afloat thanks to friends and community spirit. Italy’s extraordinary social safety nets, rooted in centuries of tradition, have helped soften the blow for millions of Italians — and, so far at least, insulated the nation from the scenes of explosive unrest that have unfolded in other crisis-hit southern European countries. Italy heads into general elections this weekend that promise to determine what shape these crisis buffers will take in the future.
———
For US adults, 11 percent of daily calories come from fast food, government study says
ATLANTA (AP) — On an average day, U.S. adults get roughly 11 percent of their calories from fast food, a government study shows.
That’s down slightly from the 13 percent reported the last time the government tried to pin down how much of the American diet is coming from fast food. Eating fast food too frequently has been seen as a driver of America’s obesity problem.
For the research, about 11,000 adults were asked extensive questions about what they ate and drank over the previous 24 hours to come up with the results.