Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Head of Senate panel: CIA improperly searched computers; issue referred to Justice Department
WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee accused the CIA Tuesday of criminal activity in improperly searching a computer network set up for lawmakers investigating allegations that the agency used torture in terror investigations during the Bush administration.
Democrat Dianne Feinstein, in an extraordinary speech on the Senate floor, publicly aired an intense but formerly quiet dispute between Congress and the spy agency.She said the matter has been referred to the Justice Department for further investigation.
Both Feinstein and the CIA have accused each other’s staffs of improper behavior. She said she had “grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution.”
CIA Director John Brennan, asked about Feinstein’s accusations, said the agency was not trying to stop the committee’s report and that it had not been spying on the panel or the Senate.He said the appropriate authorities would look at the matter further and “I defer to them to determine whether or not there was any violation of law or principle.”
Brennan informed Feinstein of the computer search in January, according to the senator.He denied that the CIA “hacked” into the computer network in remarks on Tuesday but did not address the question of a search.
Malaysian military: Missing jet changed course, was far from last reported position
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The missing Boeing 777 jetliner changed course over the sea, crossed Malaysia and reached the Strait of Malacca — hundreds of miles from its last position recorded by civilian authorities, Malaysian military officials said Tuesday, citing military radar data.
The development added confusion and mystery into one of most puzzling aviation incidents of recent time, and it has raised questions about why the Malaysia Airlines flight apparently was not transmitting signals detectable by civilian radar, why its crew was silent about the course change and why no distress calls were sent after it turned back.
Many experts have been working on the assumption there was a catastrophic event on the flight — such as an explosion, engine failure, terrorist attack, extreme turbulence, pilot error or even suicide.The director of the CIA said in Washington that he still would not rule out terrorism.
Flight MH370, carrying 239 people, took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. Saturday, bound for Beijing. Authorities initially said its last contact with ground controllers was less than an hour into the flight at a height of 35,000 feet, when the plane was somewhere between the east coast of Malaysia and Vietnam.
But local newspaper Berita Harian quoted Malaysia’s air force chief, Gen. Rodzali Daud, as saying that radar at a military base had tracked the jet as it changed its course, with the final signal at 2:40 a.m.showing the plane to be near Pulau Perak at the northern approach to the Strait of Malacca, a busy waterway that separates the western coast of Malaysia and Indonesia’s Sumatra island. It was flying slightly lower, at around 29,528 feet, he said.
Ukraine’s Crimea seeks to become independent state, not immediately part of Russia
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — As the campaign increased for tension-filled Crimea to split off from Ukraine in a weekend referendum and join Russia, the region’s parliament said Tuesday that if voters approve the move it would first declare itself an independent state, a maneuver that could de-escalate the standoff between Moscow and the West.
The move would give Moscow the option of saying there is no need for Crimea to become part of Russia while keeping it firmly within its sphere of influence.
The dispute between Moscow and the West over Crimea is one of the most severe geopolitical crises in Europe since the end of the Cold War.Russian forces have secured control over the peninsula, but Ukraine’s government and Western nations have denounced the referendum as illegitimate and strongly warned Russia against trying to annex Crimea.
Backers of voting to split off from Ukraine in Sunday’s referendum say becoming part of Russia would return the Black Sea peninsula to its rightful home.Billboards around the regional capital proclaimed “Together with Russia” and street vendors were selling Russian flags to passing motorists.
But Russia’s absorbing Crimea would only worsen tensions with the West, and the parliament declaration could put the bid on hold, depending on the outcome of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bargaining with the West.
Defense will try to renegotiate plea deal in US Army general’s sex-assault case; trial delayed
FORT BRAGG, N.C.(AP) — The trial of an Army general accused of sexual assault moved into uncharted legal territory Tuesday when the judge dismissed the jury to allow the defense time to hammer out a new plea deal with the military.
While the highly unusual decision gives Brig.Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair a second chance to negotiate the dismissal of the most serious charges, he appears certain to face an inglorious end to a nearly 30-year career spanning service in three wars. His lawyers said it could take weeks to finalize an agreement.
Experts in military law said Judge Col.James Pohl is seeking a just and innovative solution for a courtroom situation that doesn’t fit prior case law.
“No one has ever seen anything like this before, but it seems like the right thing to do,” said retired Maj.Gen. Walt Huffman, a Texas Tech University law professor who previously served as the Army’s top lawyer. “This case was already unusual in so many respects.”
Judge Pohl reviewed newly disclosed emails Monday and said he found the appearance of “unlawful command influence” in Fort Bragg officials’ rejection of a plea bargain with the general in January.He declined to dismiss the charges outright, but allowed Sinclair’s lawyers to negotiate with Army officials not previously involved with the case.
Florida special election marks first test of health care overhaul ahead of midterm elections
LARGO, Fla.(AP) — President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul is getting its first test ahead of the 2014 midterm elections Tuesday in a Tampa-area House district where Democrats and Republicans have spent millions of dollars trying out national strategies for the rest of the year.
The candidates are Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly, and their contest to succeed the late GOP Rep.Bill Young is considered a tossup, although Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby could affect the outcome by siphoning votes away from both candidates.
The implications of the dueling messages for the midterm elections inspired both parties to call in star advocates like President Bill Clinton and former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, in addition to blanketing the district with ads, calls and mailings.More than $11 million has been spent on the race, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit group that tracks government information. More than one in four registered voters in the district is older than 65, a population that could account for more than half of those casting ballots.
As Jolly and Sink shook hands around the district Tuesday, steady streams of people filed into retirement communities, churches and libraries to cast ballots.As of Monday, 27 percent of registered voters had cast ballots through absentee or early voting, with Election Day turnout increasing throughout the afternoon.
Outside a historic feed store in Largo, many voters expressed disgust at the amount of money spent on the race — and the relentless barrage of television ads and mailers that were on par with a presidential election.
50 years later, 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in New York stands as symbol of urban breakdown
NEW YORK (AP) — Kitty Genovese’s screams for help couldn’t save her on the night she was murdered outside her apartment in 1964.Fifty years later, those screams still echo, a symbol of urban breakdown and city dwellers’ seeming callousness toward their neighbors.
The case “caught the spirit of the time,” said Thomas Reppetto, a police historian. “It seemed to symbolize that society no longer cared about other people.”
Genovese’s random stabbing by Winston Moseley on March 13, 1964, became a sensation when The New York Times reported that “38 respectable, law-abiding citizens” in Queens watched the attack unfold over more than half an hour and didn’t call police during the assault.
While more recent reporting — some of it by the Times itself — found that the number of people who actually saw the murder was greatly exaggerated and that some neighbors did try to help, the Genovese case left its mark on public policy and psychology.
It has been credited with spurring adoption of the 911 system in 1968 as well as “Good Samaritan” laws that give legal protection to people who help those in trouble.
Ex-DC teacher gets 25 years child pornography case; he replaced bin Laden on FBI wanted list
WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Washington elementary school teacher who became one of the FBI’s most-wanted criminals after taking hidden video of his students using the bathroom and then eluded law enforcement officials by assuming fake identities and escaping to Nicaragua has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Eric Justin Toth spent five years on the run, living in Arizona and Texas before escaping the country.In 2012, the FBI put him on its “Ten Most Wanted” list, where he filled a vacancy created by Osama bin Laden’s death.
Before sentencing him Tuesday a judge noted his skill at evading law enforcement and the large number of victims in the case, 17 in all.
Toth had asked for 22 years in prison — expressing remorse and promising to “do penance” for his deeds.A prosecutor asked for 30.
“I know I’ve hurt people, a lot of people,” Toth told Judge Rudolph Contreras at a federal court hearing.
Pistorius trial: Friend says runner shot gun without warning out car sunroof, also at eatery
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius fired guns in public in the months before he killed his girlfriend — once out of a car sunroof on a road and once in a crowded restaurant, a onetime friend said at the athlete’s murder trial Tuesday, drawing an aggressive effort from the chief defense lawyer to pick holes in his testimony.
The account by Darren Fresco portrayed Pistorius as a reckless hothead infatuated with firearms and seemingly drifting down a precarious path before he fatally shot Reeva Steenkamp through a closed toilet door at his home before dawn on Feb.14, 2013.
Fresco’s description of how Pistorius once berated a police officer fit the prosecution’s attempts to cast the double-amputee athlete as prone to flashes of anger and blinded by an inflated sense of entitlement at a time when his public image was that of a clean-cut poster boy for overcoming adversity.
“I said to him, are you (expletive) mad?” Fresco testified after, he said, Pistorius fired his gun out of the sunroof of the car later on the same day that he had the dispute with the police officer.”He just laughed.”
At the same time, the testimony was coming from a man whose own actions were under scrutiny. Judge Thokozile Masipa cautioned Fresco, who was also a friend of Steenkamp, that some questions could incriminate him for offenses including discharge of a firearm in a built-up area, negligent damage to property and reckless endangerment.She said he would not be prosecuted if he answered the questions truthfully.
More than half of Syria’s children affected by the country’s civil war, UN says
BEIRUT (AP) — The number of Syrian children affected by the civil war in their homeland has doubled in the past year to at least 5.5 million — more than half the country’s children — with devastating effects on the health, education and psychological well-being of an entire generation, the United Nations children’s agency said Tuesday.
The conflict, which enters its fourth year this month, has unleashed massive suffering across all segments of Syrian society, but the impact on children has been especially acute, according to a new report by UNICEF.Malnutrition and illness have stunted their growth; a lack of learning opportunities has derailed their education; and the bloody trauma of war has left deep psychological scars.
“After three years of conflict and turmoil, Syria is now one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a child,” the agency said.”In their thousands, children have lost lives and limbs, along with virtually every aspect of their childhood. They have lost classrooms and teachers, brothers and sisters, friends, caregivers, homes and stability.”
“Millions of young people risk becoming, in effect, a lost generation,” UNICEF said.
Since the conflict began, thousands of videos and photographs of bloodied babies, lifeless children and bombed out schools in Syria have provided stark images of the war’s impact on children. But in many ways, figures provide perhaps the clearest indication of how sweeping an effect the conflict has on their lives.
Europe wants its Parmesan back, seeks to prevent US, other countries from using cheese names
WASHINGTON (AP) — Would Parmesan by any other name be as tasty atop your pasta?A ripening trade battle might put that to the test.
As part of trade talks, the European Union wants to ban the use of European names like Parmesan, feta and Gorgonzola on cheese made in the United States.
The argument is that the American-made cheeses are shadows of the original European varieties and cut into sales and identity of the European cheeses.The Europeans say Parmesan should only come from Parma, Italy, not those familiar green cylinders that American companies sell. Feta should only be from Greece, even though feta isn’t a place. The EU argues it “is so closely connected to Greece as to be identified as an inherently Greek product.”
So, a little “hard-grated cheese” for your pasta?It doesn’t have quite the same ring as Parmesan.
U.S. dairy producers, cheesemakers and gadged food companies are all fighting the idea, which they say would hurt the $4 billion domestic cheese industry and endlessly confuse consumers.