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POLITICS

Saturday, May 18, 2013

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Authorities: Hofstra University student killed in home invasion was fatally shot by police

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A Hofstra University student being held at gunpoint by an intruder was accidently shot and killed by a police officer who had responded to the home invasion at an off-campus home, police said Saturday.

Junior public relations major Andrea Rebello was shot once in the head early Friday morning by an officer who opened fire after the masked intruder pointed a gun at the officer while holding the 21-year-old in a headlock, Nassau County homicide squad Lt. John Azzata said.

In a tense confrontation with the officer, gunman Dalton Smith "menaces our police officer, points his gun at the police officer," Azzata said. The officer opened fire, killing Smith and his hostage.

Azzata said the Nassau County police officer fired eight shots at Smith, who police described as having an "extensive" criminal background. Smith was hit by seven times and died. Rebello was shot once in the head.

"He kept saying, 'I'm going to kill her,' and then he pointed the gun at the police officer," Azzata said.

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Seeking $600M Powerball jackpot, people pick up last-minute tickets; most number combos bought

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — It's all about the odds.

With four out of every five possible combinations of Powerball numbers in play, someone is almost sure to win the game's highest jackpot during Saturday night's drawing, a windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars — and that's after taxes.

The problem, of course, is those same odds just about guarantee the lucky person won't be you.

The chances of winning the estimated $600 million prize remain astronomically low: 1 in 175.2 million. That's how many different ways you can combine the numbers when you play. But lottery officials estimate about 80 percent of those possible combinations have been purchased, so now's the time to buy.

"This would be the roll to get in on," said Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich. "Of course there's no guarantee, and that's the randomness of it, and the fun of it."

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Officials say broken rail of interest to investigators seeking cause of Conn. train collision

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — The commuter train derailment and collision that left dozens injured outside New York City was not the result of foul play, officials said Saturday, but a fractured section of rail is being studied to determine if it is connected to the accident.

National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said Saturday the broken rail is of substantial interest to investigators and a portion of the track will be sent to a lab for analysis.

Weener said it's not clear if the accident caused the fracture or if the rail was broken before the crash. He said he won't speculate on the cause of the derailment and emphasized the investigation was in its early stages.

Seventy-two people were sent to the hospital Friday evening after a Metro-North train heading east from New York City derailed and was hit by a train heading west from New Haven. Most have been discharged.

Officials earlier described devastating damage and said it was fortunate no one was killed.

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Up to 60 people injured when car drives into Va. parade; medical emergency possible cause

DAMASCUS, Va. (AP) — An elderly driver plowed into dozens of hikers marching in a Saturday parade in a small Virginia mountain town and investigators were looking into whether he suffered a medical emergency before the accident.

About 50 to 60 people suffered injuries ranging from critical to superficial, but no fatalities were reported. Three of the worst injured were flown by helicopter to area hospitals. Their conditions weren't immediately available.

Another 12 to 15 victims were taken to hospitals by ambulance and the rest were treated at the scene, where some paramedics and other first-responders were participating in the parade.

It happened around 2:10 p.m. during the Hikers Parade at the Trail Days festival, an annual celebration of the Appalachian Trail in Damascus, near the Tennessee state line about a half-hour drive east of Bristol.

Damascus Police Chief Bill Nunley didn't release the driver's name or age but said he was participating in the parade and he had traversed the Appalachian Trail in the past. Multiple witnesses described him as an elderly man.

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Obama agenda withstanding IRS focus on tea party groups, Benghazi fallout, other controversies

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite Democratic fears, predictions of the demise of President Barack Obama's agenda appear exaggerated after a week of cascading controversies, political triage by the administration and party leaders in Congress and lack of evidence to date of wrongdoing close to the Oval Office.

"Absolutely not," Steven Miller, the recently resigned acting head of the Internal Revenue Service, responded Friday when asked if he had any contact with the White House about targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for special treatment.

"The president's re-election campaign?" persisted Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

"No," said Miller.

The hearing took place at the end of a week in which Republicans repeatedly assailed Obama and were attacked by Democrats in turn — yet sweeping immigration legislation advanced methodically toward bipartisan approval in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure "has strong support of its own in the Senate," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a member of the panel.

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Assad says Syria transition talks internal matter, seems to cast down on US-Russia initiative

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a newspaper interview Saturday he won't step down before elections and that the United States has no right to interfere in his country's politics, raising new doubts about a U.S-Russian effort to get Assad and his opponents to negotiate an end to the country's civil war.

In the capital Damascus, a car bomb killed at least three people and wounded five, according to Syrian state TV. It said bomb experts dismantled other explosives in the area.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group, said eight people were killed, including four members of the security forces. Discrepancies in death tolls are common in the chaotic aftermath of bombings in Syria.

Assad's comments to the Argentine newspaper Clarin were the first about his political future since Washington and Moscow agreed earlier this month to try to bring the Syrian regime and the opposition to an international conference for talks about a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The U.S. and Russia have backed opposite sides in the conflict, but appear to have found common ground in the diplomatic push.

The White House and the Kremlin envision holding the meeting next month, but no date has been set. Neither Assad nor the Syrian National Coalition, the main Western-backed coalition group, has made a firm commitment to attend.

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IRS targeted tea party but ignored most influential political groups

WASHINGTON (AP) — There's an irony in the Internal Revenue Service's crackdown on conservative groups.

The nation's tax agency has admitted to inappropriately scrutinizing smaller tea party organizations that applied for tax-exempt status, and senior Treasury Department officials were notified in the midst of the 2012 presidential election season that an internal investigation was underway. But the IRS largely maintained a hands-off policy with the much larger, big-budget organizations on the left and right that were most influential in the elections and are organized under a section of the tax code that allows them to hide their donors.

"The IRS goes AWOL when wealthy and powerful forces want to break the law in order to hide their wrongful efforts and secret political influence," said Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat who is among a small Senate group pushing campaign finance reform measures that would force these big outside groups to disclose their donors. "Picking on the little guy is a pretty lousy thing to do."

Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS and the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity were among those that spent tens of millions of dollars on TV ads and get-out-the-vote efforts to help Republicans. Democrats were aided in similar fashion by Priorities USA, made up of former Barack Obama campaign aides, and American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, an opposition research group led by a former adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

And yet those groups so far have escaped investigations into whether they have crossed the blurry line under the law between what constitutes a tax-exempt "social welfare" organization that is free from donor reporting requirements and a political committee subject to taxes and disclosures.

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Evidence lacking that Marines performed simple test that could have uncovered Lejeune toxins

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) — A simple test could have alerted officials that the drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated, long before authorities determined that as many as a million Marines and their families were exposed to a witch's brew of cancer-causing chemicals.

But no one responsible for the lab at the base can recall that the procedure — mandated by the Navy — was ever conducted.

The U.S. Marine Corps maintains that the carbon chloroform extract (CCE) test would not have uncovered the carcinogens that fouled the southeastern North Carolina base's water system from at least the mid-1950s until wells were capped in the mid-1980s. But experts say even this "relatively primitive" test — required by Navy health directives as early as 1963 — would have told officials that something was terribly wrong beneath Lejeune's sandy soil.

A just-released study from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry cited a February 1985 level for trichloroethylene of 18,900 parts per billion in one Lejeune drinking water well — nearly 4,000 times today's maximum allowed limit of 5 ppb. Given those kinds of numbers, environmental engineer Marco Kaltofen said even a testing method as inadequate as CCE should have raised some red flags with a "careful analyst."

"That's knock-your-socks-off level — even back then," said Kaltofen, who worked on the infamous Love Canal case in upstate New York, where drums of buried chemical waste leaked toxins into a local water system. "You could have smelled it."

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Denmark's Emmelie de Forest wins Eurovision song contest ahead of Azerbaijan, Ukraine

MALMO, Sweden (AP) — Denmark's Emmelie de Forest has won this year's Eurovision Song Contest with her ethno-inspired flute and drum tune "Only Teardrops," despite tough competition from spectacular stage shows by performers from Azerbaijan and Ukraine.

Juries and television viewers across Europe awarded the barefoot, hippie-chic 20-year-old for the catchy love song that is driven by her deep, Shakira-like voice. She received a total of 281 points in the glitzy music battle, which also featured a bizarre opera pop number from Romania, the comeback of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" star Bonnie Tyler and an Armenian rock song written by the guitarist of Black Sabbath.

"It was overwhelming and I could really feel the fans and the audience and the people in the arena," de Forest told reporters after the winners were announced early Sunday.

"Of course I believed in the song and I thought we had a great song, but that's the exciting thing with Eurovision, you never know what's going to happen," she added.

De Forest grew up in northern Denmark and has been singing since she was 14, touring around Denmark with the Scottish musician Fraser Neill. She said it is important to be persistent to succeed as a young musician.

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Oxbow wins Preakness, giving trainer Lukas a record but ending Orb's Triple Crown bid

BALTIMORE (AP) — Right from the start, a horse trained by one not so over-the-hill Hall of Famer and ridden by another took control of the Preakness. The result: a huge upset and the end of any hopes for a Triple Crown attempt at the Belmont Stakes.

Thanks to Oxbow's wire-to-wire win Saturday over Kentucky Derby winner Orb, trainer D. Wayne Lukas and jockey Gary Stevens have themselves another classic to add to their stellar resumes.

"I get paid to spoil dreams," the 77-year-old Lukas said after his record 14th win in a Triple Crown race. "Unfortunately we go over here and you can't mail 'em in. It's a different surface and a different time. You gotta line 'em up and win 'em."

Stevens ended his retirement in January, and won his third Preakness to go along with three victories in the Derby and three in the Belmont.

"At 50 years old, after seven years retirement, it doesn't get any better than this," Stevens said. "This is super, super sweet and it happened for the right guy. All the stars were aligned. It's even more special winning it for Wayne Lukas and his team."

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