Wednesday, March 21, 2012


French minister says shooter suspect threw gun from window, says he'll surrender

TOULOUSE, France (AP) -- A predawn police raid on a home in Toulouse erupted into a firefight Wednesday with a gunman who claims connections to al-Qaida and is suspected of killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers.

The man has thrown his handgun out a window but has other weapons on him, including an AK-47 assault rifle, and has used them in volleys with police surrounding the building in this southwestern city, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said.

Three policemen have been wounded in the operation, which is still ongoing, Gueant said. The suspect's brother has been arrested.

Gueant said the suspect is talking to a police negotiator and says he'll surrender in the afternoon. The minister says police want to take him alive.

The suspect is 24 years old, of French nationality and says "he belongs to al-Qaida," Gueant told reporters. He said the suspect "wants to take revenge for Palestinian children" killed in the Middle East, and is angry at the French military for its operations abroad.


Analysis: Ho-hum. GOP race hits lull with scant excitement or suspense; Obama fundraising lags

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mitt Romney's methodical accumulation of Republican delegates is no thing of beauty, and the public is reacting in kind. The 2012 presidential race thus far is drawing rather tepid interest despite high stakes that include pivotal decisions about the weak economy and the fate of President Barack Obama's massive health care overhaul.

Generally speaking, voter turnout, political fundraising and public curiosity are down compared with four years ago, when John McCain pulled away from Romney and others to secure the GOP nomination.

Among Democrats, there's no primary drama after a 2008 thriller that saw Obama battle Hillary Rodham Clinton through the winter, spring and summer. But even with the power of incumbency and fierce resistance from congressional Republicans, Obama isn't raising the kind of money he did in early 2008, when his nomination and election were far from certain.

The uninspiring nature of this year's presidential race stands in contrast to the political fireworks of Congress and several industrial states. The tea party's rapid rise has turned the House into a cauldron of partisan ferment, with repeated showdowns over issues such as paying the government's debts. GOP governors in Wisconsin and Ohio are confronting public rebukes after they aggressively challenged public-sector unions.

It's entirely possible that the presidential campaign will catch fire once a Republican nominee emerges and taps into widespread unease about Obama's handling of the economy. After comfortably winning the Illinois primary Tuesday, Romney increasingly looks like that candidate.


Top 5 things that we learned from the Illinois Republican presidential primary

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some takeaways from Tuesday's Republican presidential primary in Illinois:


Mitt Romney notched another victory in a big, industrial Midwestern state -- and the front-runner did it by leveraging all of his advantages. He overwhelmed rival Rick Santorum with TV ads; he and his allies spent $3.5 million to $500,000, an advantage of 7-1 over Santorum. His superior organization made him eligible for all of the state's 54 delegates, while Santorum missed out on at least 10 because he didn't file the right paperwork. And Romney looked ahead to the general election, giving a victory speech squarely focused on Democratic President Barack Obama.


FACT CHECK: Does more US drilling ease gas pump pain? Math, history show that hasn't happened

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It's the political cure-all for high gas prices: Drill here, drill now. But more U.S. drilling has not changed how deeply the gas pump drills into your wallet, math and history show.

A statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by The Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump.

If more domestic oil drilling worked as politicians say, you'd now be paying about $2 a gallon for gasoline. Instead, you're paying the highest prices ever for March.

Political rhetoric about the blame over gas prices and the power to change them -- whether Republican claims now or Democrats' charges four years ago -- is not supported by cold, hard figures. And that's especially true about oil drilling in the U.S. More oil production in the United States does not mean consistently lower prices at the pump.

Sometimes prices increase as American drilling ramps up. That's what has happened in the past three years. Since February 2009, U.S. oil production has increased 15 percent when seasonally adjusted. Prices in those three years went from $2.07 per gallon to $3.58. It was a case of drilling more and paying much more.


Defense attorney in Afghan massacre case is known for aggressive tactics, 'humanizing' clients

SEATTLE (AP) -- A day before the public learned the name of the soldier accused of methodically slaughtering 16 civilians in Afghanistan, his lawyer called a news conference and sketched a different portrait of Robert Bales: that of a loving father and devoted husband who had been traumatized by a comrade's injury and sent into combat one too many times.

The move was classic John Henry Browne. The charming, sometimes brash, media-savvy defense attorney had yet to even meet his client and was already attempting to shape public perceptions.

"His best work is not in a court of law, but really in a court of public opinion. He's a master at humanizing his client, and that's an important role," said Dan Satterberg, chief prosecutor in Seattle's King County, where Browne is based. "He is accessible and quotable. And he loves to talk to the media. He doesn't waste any time getting a positive portrayal of his client."

Six-foot-6 and seven times married, with a penchant for long, white scarves, Browne cuts a flamboyant figure in Seattle legal circles and has represented some notorious criminals, including serial killer Ted Bundy and the teenage thief known as the Barefoot Bandit.

Browne, 65, has obtained remarkable results for some of his clients, but his aggressive courtroom style can also rub prosecutors and judges the wrong way. In a drug case last summer, a mistrial was declared after he questioned the judge's competence in open court and a juror was overheard saying he wanted to punch the lawyer in the nose.


As NYPD's mission widens, so does its rift with FBI, sometimes with security consequences

NEW YORK (AP) -- In the fall of 2010, the FBI and New York Police Department were working together on a terrorism investigation on Long Island. The cyber case had been open for more than a year at the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn. So, the Justice Department was surprised when, without notice, the NYPD went to federal prosecutors in Manhattan and asked them to approve a search warrant in the case.

The top counterterrorism agent at the FBI in New York at the time, Greg Fowler, hit the roof. When two agencies don't coordinate, it increases the risk that the investigation and any prosecution could be compromised.

In an email response, Fowler prohibited his agents from sharing information with the NYPD's intelligence unit. He also suspended the weekly management meetings of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the primary pipeline through which information flows to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. It slowed to a trickle.

The episode was recalled by current and former NYPD and FBI officials who, like most who discussed this issue, spoke on condition of anonymity to describe sensitive law enforcement cases. It was not merely a low point in a relationship already littered with low points. It highlights how the dysfunctional partnership jeopardizes cases and sometimes national security.

The relationship between the FBI and the NYPD -- particularly the NYPD Intelligence Division -- is among the most studied collaborations in all law enforcement. In the New York media, the fighting and personalities are frequently covered like a dysfunctional celebrity marriage, with perceived betrayal and reconciliation spilling into the news.


Rising number of Chinese spy cases in Taiwan highlights Beijing's interest in US-made defenses

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- When Taiwanese security personnel detained a suspected spy for China at a top secret military base last month, they may have had a sense of deja vu.

Air force Capt. Chiang -- he was identified only by his surname -- was the fourth Taiwanese in only 14 months known to have been picked up on charges of spying for China, from which the island split amid civil war 63 years ago. While Taiwan's Defense Ministry did not disclose details of his alleged offense, his base in the northern part of the island hosts the air force's highly classified radar system and U.S.-made Patriot surface-to-air missiles, both vital to the island's aerial defense.

Chiang's arrest followed that of Maj. Gen. Lo Hsieh-che, who had access to crucial information on Taiwan's U.S.-designed command and control system, and civilian Lai Kun-chieh, who the Defense Ministry says tried without success to inveigle Patriot-related secrets from an unnamed military officer. A fourth alleged spy was detained on non-defense-related charges.

The cases show that China is seeking information about two systems that are integral to Taiwan's defenses and built with sensitive U.S. technology. A major breach could make Taiwan more vulnerable to Chinese attack.

Though relations between the two have warmed in recent years, Beijing has never recanted a vow to retake the islandtype:bold,italic;, by force if necessary.


Civil rights leaders aim to keep pressure on Fla. officials to arrest man who shot black teen

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- After declaring victories in getting federal and state officials to investigate the case of an unarmed black teenager shot to death by a neighborhood watch captain, civil rights leaders continued to pressure authorities to make an arrest.

At a town hall meeting Tuesday evening in Sanford, Fla., where the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin took place last month, officials from the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Nation of Islam urged residents to remain calm but demand that the shooter, George Zimmerman, be arrested.

Zimmerman has not been charged in the Feb. 26 shooting and has said he shot Martin, who was returning to a gated community in the city after buying candy at a convenience store, in self-defense after Martin attacked him. Police said Zimmerman is white; his family says he is Hispanic.

"I stand here as a son, father, uncle who is tired of being scared for our boys," said Benjamin Jealous, national president of the NAACP. "I'm tired of telling our young men how they can't dress, where they can't go and how they can't behave."

The case has ignited a furor against the police department of this Orlando suburb of 53,500 people, prompting rallies and a protest in Gov. Rick Scott's office Tuesday. The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said it is sending its community relations service this week to Sanford to "address tension in the community."


Powerful quake hammers central and south Mexico, but surprisingly officials report no deaths

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- A powerful earthquake that shook Mexico from its massive capital to its resort-studded southern coast damaged hundreds of homes and sent thousands of panicked people fleeing from swaying office buildings, yet apparently didn't cause a single death.

As of early Wednesday, there were still no reports of deaths from Tuesday's magnitude-7.4 quake centered near the border between the southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero, even after 10 aftershocks. Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire said Tuesday night that nine people were injured in Oaxaca and two in Mexico City.

Seismologists and civil protection officials said where the earthquake hit and how it hit appear to have limited the damage, along with improved construction in the capital following a massive 1985 quake.

There were reports of damaged buildings but none were reported to have collapsed on the Oaxaca side of the border, said civil protection spokeswoman Cynthia Tovar said. In Guerrero, home to Acapulco where little damage was reported, officials say about 800 homes were damaged and 60 collapsed.

Authorities said the absence of tall buildings in the mountainous rural area is one reason for the lack of casualties.


Luis Scola scores 23 points, Dragic hits clutch 3 in Rockets' 107-104 win over Lakers

HOUSTON (AP) -- Kobe Bryant gave Goran Dragic a quick hug after Houston's pesky point guard led the Rockets past the Lakers on Wednesday night.

Dragic hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 28 seconds left and finished with 16 points and 13 assists in Houston's 107-104 comeback victory.

Down by nine with 5 minutes left, the Rockets had a 12-0 run to take the lead. Dragic scored 10 points in the final quarter, putting the Rockets ahead for good with his second 3 of the game.

Houston held on and Bryant made a point to meet Dragic at midcourt after the final buzzer.

"He just said, 'Good game, I wish you luck,'" Dragic said. "Nothing special."