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Associated Press

Posted on February 21, 2013 at 12:02 AM

Updated Thursday, Feb 21 at 10:30 AM

Muddled police testimony in Oscar Pistorius hearing only raises more questions about shooting

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The prosecution case against Oscar Pistorius began to unravel Wednesday with revelations of a series of police blunders and the lead investigator's admission that authorities have no evidence challenging the double-amputee Olympian's claim he killed his girlfriend accidentally.

Detective Hilton Botha's often confused testimony left prosecutors rubbing their heads in frustration as he misjudged distances and said testosterone — banned for professional athletes in some cases — was found at the scene, only to be later contradicted by the prosecutor's office.

The second day of what was supposed to be a mere bail hearing almost resembled a full-blown trial for the 26-year-old runner, with his lawyer, Barry Roux, tearing into Botha's testimony step by step during cross examination.

Police, Botha acknowledged, left a 9 mm slug from the barrage that killed Reeva Steenkamp inside a toilet and lost track of illegal ammunition found inside the house. And the detective himself walked through the crime scene without wearing protective shoe covers, potentially contaminating the area.

Authorities, Roux asserted, were selectively taking "every piece of evidence to try to extract the most possibly negative connotation and present it to the court."

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Witnesses reported smelling gas before blast that leveled popular Kansas City restaurant

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A day after a natural gas explosion leveled a popular restaurant, investigators raced to search the rubble and tried to understand how the blast happened despite suspicions that flammable fuel had been leaking, maybe for weeks, somewhere in the busy outdoor shopping area.

Hours before the explosion, witnesses reported a strong smell of gas, and firefighters were summoned to the scene at one point but left without ordering an evacuation.

As the cleanup got under way Wednesday, search-and-rescue crews recovered a body. Mayor Sly James declined to identify the victim, but the mother of a missing restaurant server said her family was awaiting confirmation that the remains were those of her daughter.

More than an hour before the blast, a subcontractor working for a cable company hit a gas line with underground boring equipment. Then something inside the restaurant ignited the fuel, authorities said.

Surveillance video from a nearby travel agency shows a fireball erupting from the restaurant's roof, showering the street with debris and throwing up a cloud of dust and smoke. The blast could be felt for a mile and shattered glass in neighboring buildings.

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Jesse Jackson Jr. pleads guilty in scheme to spend $750K in campaign funds on personal items

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., holding back tears, entered a guilty plea Wednesday in federal court to criminal charges that he engaged in a scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items. He faces 46 to 57 months in prison, and a fine of $10,000 to $100,000, under a plea deal with prosecutors.

A few hours later, his wife, Sandra Jackson, pleaded guilty to filing false joint federal income tax returns that knowingly understated the income the couple received. She faces one to two years in prison and a fine of $3,000 to $40,000.

In a 17-page prosecution document, Jackson's wife admitted that from mid-2006 through mid-October of last year, she failed to report $600,000 in income that she and her husband earned from 2005 to 2011.

Before entering the plea to a conspiracy charge, Jesse Jackson told U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins, "I've never been more clear in my life" in his decision to plead guilty.

Later, when Wilkins asked if Jackson committed the acts outlined in court papers, the former congressman replied, "I did these things." He added later, "Sir, for years I lived in my campaign," and used money from the campaign for personal use.

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10 Things to Know for Thursday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:

1. WHY IT WAS A BETTER DAY FOR PISTORIUS

Detective's muddled testimony leaves prosecutors rubbing their heads in frustration.

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New US effort launched to stem theft of trade secrets; concern about China leads to action

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration announced new efforts Wednesday to fight the growing theft of American trade secrets, a broad but relatively restrained response to a rapidly emerging global problem that was brought into sharp focus this week by fresh evidence linking cyberstealing to China's military.

Mentioning China but not specifically targeting that country, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the plan, which includes a new diplomatic push to discourage intellectual property theft abroad along with better coordination at home to help U.S. companies protect themselves.

The administration says indications are that economic espionage is increasing, not only through electronic intrusion over the Internet but also through the recruitment of former employees of U.S. companies with knowledge of inside trade information.

"Particularly in this time of economic recovery, this work is more important than it ever has been before," Holder said at the White House announcement of the administration's strategy.

"As new technologies have torn down traditional barriers to international business and global commerce, they've also made it easier for criminals to steal trade secrets — and to do so from anywhere in the world," Holder said. "A hacker in China can acquire source code from a software company in Virginia without leaving his or her desk. With a few keystrokes, a terminated or simply unhappy employee of a defense contractor can misappropriate designs, processes, and formulas worth billions of dollars."

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Weighing in on gay marriage ban? Obama may ask the Supreme Court to overturn California's ban

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is quietly considering urging the Supreme Court to overturn California's ban on gay marriage, a step that would mark a political victory for advocates of same-sex unions and a deepening commitment by President Barack Obama to rights for gay couples.

Obama raised expectations among opponents of the Proposition 8 ban when he declared in last month's inaugural address that gays and lesbians must be "treated like anyone else under the law." The administration has until Feb. 28 to intervene in the case by filing a "friend of the court" brief.

The Proposition 8 ballot initiative was approved by California voters in 2008 and overturned a state Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage. Twenty-nine other states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, while nine states and Washington, D.C., recognize same-sex marriage.

An administration brief alone is unlikely to sway the Justices but the federal government's opinion does carry weight with the court.

A final decision on whether to file a brief has not been made, a senior administration official said. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli is consulting with the White House on the matter, said the official, speaking only on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to address the private deliberations publicly.

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Mahony abuse files dominate papal conclave's dirty laundry as pressure mounts to keep him home

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Popular pressure is mounting in the U.S. and Italy to keep California Cardinal Roger Mahony away from the conclave to elect the next pope because of his role shielding sexually abusive priests, a movement targeting one of the most prominent of a handful of compromised cardinals scheduled to vote next month.

Amid the outcry, Mahony has made clear he is coming, and no one can force him to recuse himself. A Vatican historian also said Wednesday that there is no precedent for a cardinal staying home because of personal scandal. But the growing grass-roots campaign is an indication that ordinary Catholics are increasingly demanding a greater say in who is fit to elect their pope, and casts an ugly shadow over the upcoming papal election.

Conclaves always bring out the worst in cardinals' dirty laundry, with past sins and transgressions aired anew in the slow news days preceding the vote. This time is no different — except that the revelations of Mahony's sins are so fresh and come on the tails of a recent round of sex abuse scandals in the U.S. and Europe.

This week, the influential Italian Catholic affairs magazine Famiglia Cristiana asked its readers if the Los Angeles-based Cardinal Mahony should participate in the conclave given the revelations. "Your opinion: Mahony in the conclave: Yes or No?" reads the online survey of one of Italy's most-read magazines.

The overwhelming majority among more than 350 replies has been a clear-cut "No."

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Officials issue do-not-drink order after woman's body found in Los Angeles hotel's water tank

LOS ANGELES (AP) — British tourist Michael Baugh and his wife said water had only dribbled out of the taps at the downtown Cecil Hotel for days.

On Tuesday, after showering, brushing their teeth and drinking some of the tap water, they headed down to the lobby and found out why.

The body of a Canadian woman had been discovered at the bottom of one of four cisterns on the roof of the historic hotel near Skid Row. The tanks provide water for hotel taps and would have been used by guests for washing and drinking.

"The moment we found out, we felt a bit sick to the stomach, quite literally, especially having drank the water, we're not well mentally," Michael Baugh, 27, said.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials issued a do-not-drink order Tuesday while its lab analyzes the water, said Terrance Powell, a director coordinating the department's response. The disclosure contradicts a previous police statement that the water had been deemed safe. Results of the testing were expected by Thursday.

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AP source: Boeing to propose plan to FAA to temporarily fix 787 Dreamliner's batteries

WASHINGTON (AP) — Boeing has developed a plan that it intends to propose to federal regulators to temporarily fix problems with the 787 Dreamliner's batteries that have kept the planes on the ground for more than a month, a congressional official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner is expected to present the plan to Michael Huerta, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, in a meeting on Friday, the official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly.

Boeing Co. spokesman Marc Birtel said the company doesn't talk in advance about meetings with federal officials.

"Everyone is working to get to the answer as quickly as possible, and good progress is being made," Birtel said.

The FAA and overseas aviation authorities grounded all 50 of the planes in service worldwide after a lithium ion battery caught fire on a plane parked in Boston and a smoking battery led to an emergency landing by another plane in Japan. The 787 is Boeing's newest and most technologically advanced plane. It was supposed to exemplify the future of commercial aviation, but the groundings have been a major public black eye and financial drain for Boeing, which vies with Airbus for the position as the world's largest commercial aircraft maker.

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Sony shows socially focused PlayStation 4 capabilities, new controller at NY event, but no box

NEW YORK (AP) — Sony wants you to know that the PlayStation 4 is coming this holiday season, but not what it will look like.

The Japanese electronics giant talked about its upcoming console for the first time Wednesday and showed what it can do, without actually revealing the device itself during the two-hour event. Presenters played games that were projected on screens in a converted opera house, but the PlayStations themselves were hidden backstage.

"I don't know that the box is going to be something that's going to have a dramatic impact on people's feelings about the game. It will be a color and a size fairly comparable to previous consoles," said Jack Tretton, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, the U.S.-based arm of the PlayStation business.

"There's a big story to tell here, and it's going to take between now and the holiday season to get all the details out there," Tretton said in an interview.

Tretton said the price of the PS4 hasn't been decided yet, but hinted that it wouldn't be as high as the PlayStation 3 was initially. The PS3 debuted in 2006 with two models for $500 and $600. It now sells for about $300.

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