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Friday, February 15, 2013

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News,Science and Technology

Venezuelan government shows first photos of President Hugo Chavez in more than 2 months

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The world got its first glimpse of Hugo Chavez since he underwent a fourth cancer-related surgery in Cuba more than two months ago, with photos released Friday showing the Venezuelan leader smiling alongside his daughters in Havana.

Along with images of the puffy-faced Chavez came a government explanation for why no one has heard from the longtime president since his surgery: He's breathing through a tracheal tube that makes speech difficult.

Chavez's government described his condition as "delicate" and said he continues to undergo "vigorous treatment for his fundamental illness."

The images and new details filled a vacuum of information about Chavez's condition that has unleashed rampant speculation in Venezuela. Government officials say Chavez has been recovering in Cuba since his cancer surgery Dec. 11.

The four photos show Chavez reclining on what appears to be a bed, his cheeks reddish, and a blue pillow behind his head. He smiles broadly, while his daughters Rosa and Maria lean in close to him.

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Sheriff: Ex-cop Dorner died from single gunshot to the head, had been hiding near command post

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — Fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner killed himself as the cabin he was barricaded inside caught fire following a shootout with officers, police revealed Friday while also confirming he spent most of his time on the run in a condominium just steps away from the command center set up to find him.

"The information that we have right now seems to indicate that the wound that took Christopher Dorner's life was self-inflicted," sheriff's Capt. Kevin Lacy told reporters at a news conference.

Authorities initially were unsure whether Dorner killed himself, had been struck by a deputy's bullet or had died in a fire that engulfed the cabin during the shootout.

The search for Dorner began last week after authorities said he had launched a deadly revenge campaign against the Los Angeles Police Department for his firing, warning in a manifesto posted on Facebook that he would bring "warfare" to LAPD officers and their families.

Within days he had killed four people, including two police officers.

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Jesse Jackson Jr., wife to plead guilty; $750K from campaign allegedly spent on personal items

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a spectacular fall from political prominence, former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife agreed Friday to plead guilty to federal charges growing out of what prosecutors said was a scheme to use $750,000 in campaign funds for lavish personal expenses, including a $43,000 gold watch and furs.

Federal prosecutors filed one charge of conspiracy against the former Chicago congressman and charged his ex-alderman wife, Sandra, with one count of filing false joint federal income tax returns for the years 2006 through 2011 that knowingly understated the income the couple received. Both agreed to plead guilty in deals with federal prosecutors.

Both face maximum penalties of several years in prison; he also faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and forfeitures. But the government did not immediately release the text of its plea agreements. Such agreements almost invariably call for prosecutors to recommend sentences below the maximum.

The son of a famed civil rights leader, Jackson, a Democrat, entered Congress in 1995 and resigned last November. Sandi, as she's known, was a Chicago alderman, but resigned last month amid the federal investigation.

Jackson used campaign money to buy such things as a $43,350 on a gold-plated, men's Rolex watch and $9,587.64 on children's furniture, according to court papers filed in the case. His wife spent $5,150 on fur capes and parkas, the document said.

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Oscar Pistorius, weeping in court, faces premeditated murder charge in girlfriend's slaying

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — In a courtroom, not an Olympic stadium, there was no click-click-click of Oscar Pistorius' prosthetic limbs. His only sound Friday was loud, uncontrollable sobs as prosecutors charged him with premeditated murder in the shooting death of his model girlfriend.

"Take it easy," Chief Magistrate Desmond Nasir told the Olympic star-turned-murder-defendant as his father, Henke, and his brother, Carl, reached out to touch his shoulder to comfort him.

The 26-year-old Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter who won world acclaim by competing in last summer's London Olympics, did not speak or enter a plea. He held his head and wept as he heard the charge, which carries a life sentence.

A statement released later by his family and agent said Pistorius disputed the murder charge "in the strongest terms."

The track star's arrest in the Valentine's Day killing of 29-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp shocked South Africa, where Pistorius was a national hero dubbed the Blade Runner for his high-tech prosthetics and revered for overcoming his disability to compete in the London Games.

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Meteor explodes over Russia's Ural Mountains; 1,100 injured as shock wave blasts out windows

MOSCOW (AP) — With a blinding flash and a booming shock wave, a meteor blazed across the western Siberian sky Friday and exploded with the force of 20 atomic bombs, injuring more than 1,000 people as it blasted out windows and spread panic in a city of 1 million.

While NASA estimated the meteor was only about the size of a bus and weighed an estimated 7,000 tons, the fireball it produced was dramatic. Video shot by startled residents of the city of Chelyabinsk showed its streaming contrails as it arced toward the horizon just after sunrise, looking like something from a world-ending science-fiction movie.

The largest recorded meteor strike in more than a century occurred hours before a 150-foot asteroid passed within about 17,000 miles (28,000 kilometers) of Earth. The European Space Agency said its experts had determined there was no connection between the asteroid and the Russian meteor — just cosmic coincidence.

The meteor above western Siberia entered the Earth's atmosphere about 9:20 a.m. local time (10:20 p.m. EST Thursday) at a hypersonic speed of at least 33,000 mph (54,000 kph) and shattered into pieces about 30-50 kilometers (18 to 32 miles) high, the Russian Academy of Sciences said. NASA estimated its speed at about 40,000 mph, said it exploded about 12 to 15 miles high, released 300 to 500 kilotons of energy and left a trail 300 miles long.

"There was panic. People had no idea what was happening," said Sergey Hametov of Chelyabinsk, about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow in the Ural Mountains.

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Incoming space rocks just hours apart point up danger to Earth; 'It's a shooting gallery'

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A space rock even bigger than the meteor that exploded like an atom bomb over Russia could drop out of the sky unannounced at any time and wreak havoc on a city. And Hollywood to the contrary, there isn't much the world's scientists and generals can do about it.

But some former astronauts want to give the world a fighting chance.

They're hopeful Friday's cosmic coincidence — Earth's close brush with a 150-foot asteroid, hours after the 49-foot meteor struck in Russia — will draw attention to the dangers lurking in outer space and lead to action, such as better detection and tracking of asteroids.

"After today, a lot of people will be paying attention," said Rusty Schweickart, who flew on Apollo 9 in 1969, helped establish the planet-protecting B612 Foundation and has been warning NASA for years to put more muscle and money into a heightened asteroid alert.

Earth is menaced all the time by meteors, which are chunks of asteroids or comets that enter Earth's atmosphere. But many if not most of them are simply too small to detect from afar with the tools now available to astronomers.

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Incoming asteroid misses Earth by 17,150 miles, unrelated to exploding meteor over Russia

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A 150-foot asteroid hurtled through Earth's backyard Friday, coming within an incredible 17,150 miles and making the closest known flyby for a rock of its size. In a chilling coincidence, a meteor exploded above Russia just hours before the asteroid zoomed past the planet.

Scientists the world over, along with NASA, insisted the meteor had nothing to do with the asteroid since they appeared to be traveling in opposite directions. The asteroid is a much more immense object and delighted astronomers in Australia and elsewhere who watched it zip harmlessly through a clear night sky.

"It's on its way out," reported Paul Chodas of NASA's Near-Earth Object program at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Asteroid 2012 DA14, as it's called, came closer to Earth than many communication and weather satellites orbiting 22,300 miles up. Scientists insisted these, too, would be spared, and they were right.

The asteroid was too small to see with the naked eye even at its closest approach around 2:25 p.m. EST, over the Indian Ocean near Sumatra.

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AP PHOTOS: Meteor explodes over Russia's Ural Mountains

A meteor streaked across the sky and exploded over Russia's Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb Friday, its sonic blasts shattering countless windows and injuring nearly 1,000 people. The spectacle deeply frightened many Russians, with some declaring that the world was coming to an end. Many of the injured were cut by flying glass as they flocked to windows to see what the source was for such an intense flash of light.

Here's a look at photos from the event and its aftermath.

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In Chicago, Obama talks about ways to build 'ladders of opportunity' into the middle class

CHICAGO (AP) — Pressing his case in the town that launched his political career, President Barack Obama called Friday for the government to take an active, wide-ranging role in ensuring every American has a "ladder of opportunity" into the middle class.

Speaking at Hyde Park Academy in Chicago, Obama sought support for proposals, unveiled this week in his State of the Union address, to increase the federal minimum wage and ensure every child can attend preschool. He also pitched plans to pair businesses with recession-battered communities to help them rebuild and provide job training.

"In too many neighborhoods today, whether here in Chicago or in the farthest reaches of rural America, it can feel like for a lot of young people the future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town, that no matter how much you work or how hard you try, your destiny was determined the moment you were born," Obama said.

Ensuring that no child is denied the ability to go as far as his or her talents will allow means removing some of the roadblocks from early in life, Obama said, calling for intensified efforts to promote healthier family environments. He called for removing financial disincentives to marry and reforming child support laws in hopes that more children will grow up in stable homes — and, specifically, with a responsible father in the picture.

Holding himself up as an example, Obama reflected on the absence of his father during his childhood, but said he had advantages not enjoyed by others, such as the at-risk young men from an anti-violence school program he met just after arriving in Chicago.

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Trapped in squalor, cruise ship passengers became comrades on long, difficult voyage home

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — When their cruise ship lost power, passengers aboard the Carnival Triumph could have been selfish and looked out only for themselves and their loved ones.

Instead, they became comrades in a long, exhausting struggle to get home.

As ship conditions deteriorated after an engine fire, travelers formed Bible study groups, shared or traded precious supplies and even welcomed strangers into their private cabins. Long after they've returned to the everyday luxuries of hot showers and cold drinks, passengers said, they will remember the crew and the personal bonds formed during a cruel week at sea.

The tired tourists finally reached land Friday and gave a glimpse into the intensely uncomfortable journey they had endured.

Sandy Jackson, of Houston, was fortunate to have an upper-level room with a balcony and a breeze that kept the air in her cabin fresh. Rooms on the lower decks were too foul or stifling, so Jackson took in five people, including four strangers.

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