Wednesday, April 17, 2013

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News,Science and Technology

FBI: Miss. man arrested, accused of sending letters with suspected ricin to Washington

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — The FBI has identified a Mississippi man suspected of mailing letters containing poisonous ricin as 45-year-old Paul Kevin Curtis.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen said Curtis was arrested Wednesday afternoon at his apartment in Corinth, near the Tennessee state line about 100 miles east of Memphis.

Authorities still waited for definitive tests on the letters sent to President Barack Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

An FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press said those two letters were postmarked Memphis, Tenn.

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Boston official says surveillance footage shows man dropping off bag at blast site

BOSTON (AP) — In what could be major break in the Boston Marathon case, investigators are on the hunt for a man seen in a department store surveillance video dropping off a bag at the site of the bombings, a local politician said Wednesday.

Separately, a law enforcement official confirmed that authorities have found an image of a potential suspect but don't know his name.

The development — less than 48 hours after the attack, which left three people dead and more than 170 wounded — marked a possible turning point in a case that has investigators analyzing photos and videos frame by frame for clues to who carried out the twin bombings and why.

City Council President Stephen Murphy, who said he was briefed by Boston police, said investigators saw the image on surveillance footage they got from a department store near the finish line and matched the findings with witness descriptions of someone leaving the scene.

"I know it's very active and very fluid right now — that they are on the chase," Murphy said. He added: "They may be on the verge of arresting someone, and that's good."

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Battlefield to Boston: Lessons learned from war injuries are helping marathon bomb victims

The bombs that made Boston look like a combat zone have also brought battlefield medicine to their civilian victims. A decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has sharpened skills and scalpels, leading to dramatic advances that are now being used to treat the 13 amputees and nearly a dozen other patients still fighting to keep damaged limbs.

"The only field or occupation that benefits from war is medicine," said Dr. David Cifu, rehabilitation medicine chief at the Veterans Health Administration.

Nearly 2,000 American troops have lost a leg, arm, foot or hand in Iraq or Afghanistan, and their sacrifices have led to advances in the immediate and long-term care of survivors, as well in the quality of prosthetics that are now so good that surgeons often chose them over trying to save a badly mangled leg.

Tourniquets, shunned during the Vietnam War, made a comeback in Iraq as medical personnel learned to use them properly and studies proved that they saved lives. In Boston, as on the battlefield, they did just that by preventing people from bleeding to death.

Military doctors learned and passed on to their civilian counterparts a surgical strategy of a minimal initial operation to stabilize the patient, followed by more definitive ones days later, an approach that experience showed offered the best chance to preserve tissue from large and complex leg wounds.

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News organizations forced to pull back on reports of Boston suspect

NEW YORK (AP) — For about an hour Wednesday afternoon, people could flip through different television channels and hear completely different accounts of the investigation into the Boston Marathon explosions: Some news organizations reported the arrest of a suspect and then took those claims back.

CNN, Fox News Channel and the Boston Globe said that a suspect in Monday's bombing had been arrested. The Associated Press said a suspect had been taken into custody. Within an hour, the FBI denied that a suspect had been captured, leading the three news organizations that had reported the arrest to back down from those claims.

The AP, while reporting the federal denial, said that its original source was standing by its claim that a suspect had been taken into custody. The news cooperative said its source was a law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity.

ABC, CBS and NBC all broke into their regular programming to report progress in the case, but did not say there was an arrest or someone brought into custody.

The frantic afternoon presented another example of news organizations being embarrassed by a race to report information under intense competitive pressure. It was reminiscent of the day last year that the Supreme Court handed down its decision on President Obama's health care plan, when both CNN and Fox initially got the ruling wrong in their haste to report it.

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No new gun control: Senate rejects more background checks, assault weapons ban after Newtown

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans backed by a small band of rural-state Democrats scuttled the most far-reaching gun control legislation in two decades Wednesday, rejecting tighter background checks for buyers and a ban on assault weapons as they spurned pleas from families of victims of last winter's school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

"This effort isn't over," President Barack Obama vowed at the White House moments after the defeat on one of his top domestic priorities. Surrounded by Newtown relatives, he said opponents of the legislation in both parties "caved to the pressure" of special interests.

A ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines also fell in a series of showdown votes four months after a gunman killed 20 elementary school children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary.

A bid to loosen restrictions on concealed weapons carried across state lines was rejected, as well.

That last vote marked a rare defeat for the National Rifle Association on a day it generally triumphed over Obama, gun control advocates and many of the individuals whose lives have been affected by mass shootings in Connecticut and elsewhere.

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Assad accuses West of backing al-Qaida in Syria, says it will pay price

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's president accused the West on Wednesday of backing al-Qaida in his country's civil war, warning it will pay a price "in the heart" of Europe and the United States as the terror network becomes emboldened.

Bashar Assad also lashed out at Jordan for allowing "thousands" of fighters to enter Syria through its borders and warned that the "fire will not stop at Syria's border."

The rare TV interview with the government-run Al-Ikhbariya channel marking Syria's independence day comes as the embattled president's military is fighting to reverse rebel advances, with a rocket attack killing at least 12 people in a central village on Wednesday.

"Just as the West financed al-Qaida in Afghanistan in its beginnings, and later paid a heavy price, today it is supporting it in Syria, Libya and other places and will pay the price later in the heart of Europe and the United States," Assad said.

He offered no evidence to back his charge that the U.S. was now backing the international terror group responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

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Boston fans mourn and then cheer as Bruins game marks return of sports to city

BOSTON (AP) — Emerging from a moment of silence with a deafening cheer, fans at Wednesday night's Bruins game paid tribute to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing with a stirring national anthem and a thunderous chant of "U.S.A.!"

The sold-out crowd at the first major sporting event in the city since Monday's attack lined up for metal-detecting wands and random car inspections to get into the TD Garden. Once inside, they watched a somber video with scenes from the race, ending with the words, "We are Boston, We are Strong."

The players on the ice for the opening faceoff banged their sticks in the traditional hockey salute, drifting back off the blue lines so that they, too, could see the video. The Boston Fire Department Honor Guard brought out the U.S. flag to honor the first responders who rushed to the aid of the three killed and more than 170 injured by the twin bombs at the marathon finish line.

Longtime Boston Garden troubadour Rene Rancourt took his place for the "Star-Spangled Banner." But he sang only the first few lines, allowing the crowd to carry the tune while he pumped his fist to keep time.

It was an emotional return to normal life for the city, which has been dazed by the attacks on one of its signature and most beloved events. Monday's scheduled Bruins game against Ottawa was rescheduled, and Tuesday night's Celtics game was canceled outright.

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Court records show ex-official's wife implicated husband as triggerman in Texas DA slayings

KAUFMAN, Texas (AP) — In a surprising twist, the wife of a jailed former justice of the peace was charged Wednesday with capital murder after authorities say she confessed to helping her husband kill two North Texas prosecutors who aggressively secured a theft conviction against him.

The overnight arrest and charge against Kim Lene Williams is the latest turn in an investigation that had recently focused on Eric Williams after authorities searched his home and a nearby storage facility stocked with guns. An arrest affidavit alleges she told investigators Tuesday that her husband shot and killed Kaufman County assistant prosecutor Mark Hasse in January and District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife last month.

The affidavit does not specify what role she played in the killings. Investigators said they would not release further details until briefing the victims' families.

Eric Williams, 46, who has not yet been charged in the slayings, remained jailed on a $3 million bond Wednesday on a charge of making a terroristic threat. Kim Williams, 46, was being held on a $10 million bond.

"I don't think anyone could have written a novel that would play out like this," said Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood. He said county employees were relieved the case was moving forward but also were shocked by the recent developments.

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Co-author of Obama health care law sees 'huge train wreck' in implementation

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior Democratic senator who helped write President Barack Obama's health care law stunned administration officials Wednesday, saying openly he thinks it's headed for a "train wreck" because of bumbling implementation.

"I just see a huge train wreck coming down," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., told Obama's health care chief during a routine budget hearing that suddenly turned tense.

Baucus is the first top Democrat to publicly voice fears about the rollout of the new health care law, designed to bring coverage to some 30 million uninsured people through a mix of government programs and tax credits for private insurance. Polls show that Americans remain confused by the complex law, and even many uninsured people are skeptical they will be helped by benefits that start next year.

A six-term veteran, Baucus expects a tough re-election in 2014. He's still trying to recover from approval ratings that nosedived amid displeasure with the health care law in his home state.

Normally low-key and supportive, Baucus challenged Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at Wednesday's hearing.

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American Airlines tries to catch up after grounding fleet; cancellations and delays persist

DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines played catch-up Wednesday, resuming most flights and even adding a handful that were not on the schedule to help passengers stranded by a massive technology failure that grounded the carrier's entire U.S. fleet.

A day after the nationwide breakdown, some cancellations persisted, and delays were still common. About a third of American flights were late as of mid-afternoon.

American's CEO blamed Tuesday's failure on a software problem that knocked out computers needed for booking flights, tracking bags, loading and fueling planes and more.

"As you'd imagine, we do have redundancies in our system," Tom Horton, chief executive of parent company AMR Corp., said in an apology posted on YouTube. "But unfortunately in this case, we had a software issue that impacted both our primary and backup systems."

American and smaller-jet subsidiary American Eagle canceled more than 300 flights by mid-afternoon, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.com. American said some flights were affected by bad weather in Chicago.

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