Case of ricin-laced letters sent to Obama remains open after charges dropped against Miss. man
TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — Charges of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and others were dropped Tuesday against an Elvis impersonator from Mississippi who has said since his arrest last week that he had nothing to do with the case.
Meanwhile, in Tupelo, numerous law enforcement officers converged on the home of another Mississippi man, Everett Dutschke, including some in hazmat suits. No charges have been filed against him and he hasn't been arrested. Both men say they have no idea how to make the poisonous ricin and had nothing to do with sending them to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a state judge.
Referring to officials' questions for him about the case, "I thought they said rice and I said I don't even eat rice," 45-year-old Paul Kevin Curtis said after he was released from custody Tuesday afternoon. "I respect President Obama. I love my country and would never do anything to pose a threat to him or any other U.S. official."
A one-sentence document filed by federal prosecutors said charges against Curtis were dropped, but left open the possibility they could be re-instated if authorities found more to prove their case. Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.
The dismissal is the latest twist in a case that rattled the country already on edge over the Boston Marathon bombing last week.
Bomb suspect influenced by mysterious radical Islamic convert: 'He just took his brain'
WASHINGTON (AP) — In the years before the Boston Marathon bombings, Tamerlan Tsarnaev fell under the influence of a new friend, a Muslim convert who steered the religiously apathetic young man toward a strict strain of Islam, family members said.
Under the tutelage of a friend known to the Tsarnaev family only as Misha, Tamerlan gave up boxing and stopped studying music, his family said. He began opposing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He turned to websites and literature claiming that the CIA was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Jews controlled the world.
"Somehow, he just took his brain," said Tamerlan's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who recalled conversations with Tamerlan's worried father about Misha's influence. Efforts over several days by The Associated Press to identify and interview Misha have been unsuccessful.
Tamerlan's relationship with Misha could be a clue in understanding the motives behind his religious transformation and, ultimately, the attack itself. Two U.S. officials say he had no tie to terrorist groups.
Throughout his religious makeover, Tamerlan maintained a strong influence over his siblings, including Dzhokhar, who investigators say carried out the deadly attack by his older brother's side, killing three and injuring 264 people.
Man arrested in Canada terror denies plot to derail train on route between New York and Canada
TORONTO (AP) — A man accused of plotting with al-Qaida members in Iran to derail a train in Canada rejected the charges and said Tuesday that authorities were basing their conclusions on appearances. Law enforcement officials in the U.S. said the target was a train that runs between New York City and Canada.
Canadian investigators say Raed Jaser, 35, and his suspected accomplice Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, received guidance — but no money — from members of al-Qaida in Iran. Iran released a statement saying it had nothing to do with the plot, even though there were no claims in Canada that the attacks were sponsored directly by Iran.
But the case raised questions about the extent of Shiite-led Iran's relationship with the predominantly Sunni Arab terrorist network. It also renewed attention on Iran's complicated history with the terror group, which ranges from outright hostility to alliances of convenience and even overtures by Tehran to assist Washington after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
"We oppose any terrorist and violent action that would jeopardize lives of innocent people," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday.
Charges against the two men in Canada include conspiring to carry out an attack and murder people in association with a terrorist group. Police — tipped off by an imam worried by the behavior of one of the suspects — said it was the first known attack planned by al-Qaida in Canada.
Kerry urges NATO to plan for Syria chemical weapon threat, says allies should up aid to rebels
BRUSSELS (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged NATO on Tuesday to prepare for the possible use of chemical weapons by Syria on the same day that a senior Israeli military intelligence official said Syrian President Bashar Assad had used such weapons last month in his battle against insurgents.
It was the first time Israel had accused the embattled Syrian leader of using his stockpile of nonconventional weapons.
The assessment, based on visual evidence, could raise pressure on the U.S. and other Western countries to intervene in Syria. Britain and France recently announced that they had evidence that Assad's government had used chemical weapons.
President Barack Obama has warned that the use of chemical weapons by Assad would be a "game changer" and has hinted that it could draw intervention.
But White House spokesman Jay Carney said while the administration is continuing to monitor and investigate whether the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons, it has "not come to the conclusion that there has been that use."
US hospitals send hundreds of immigrant patients back to home countries to curb cost of care
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Days after they were badly hurt in a car accident, Jacinto Cruz and Jose Rodriguez-Saldana lay unconscious in an Iowa hospital while the American health care system weighed what to do with the two immigrants from Mexico.
The men had health insurance from jobs at one of the nation's largest pork producers. But neither had legal permission to live in the U.S., nor was it clear whether their insurance would pay for the long-term rehabilitation they needed.
So Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines took matters into its own hands: After consulting with the patients' families, it quietly loaded the two comatose men onto a private jet that flew them back to Mexico, effectively deporting them without consulting any court or federal agency.
When the men awoke, they were more than 1,800 miles away in a hospital in Veracruz, on the Mexican Gulf Coast.
Hundreds of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally have taken similar journeys through a little-known removal system run not by the federal government trying to enforce laws but by hospitals seeking to curb high costs. A recent report compiled by immigrant advocacy groups made a rare attempt to determine how many people are sent home, concluding that at least 600 immigrants were removed over a five-year period, though there were likely many more.
From Barcelona to Boston: A message of hope to survivors from an injured war photographer
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — In the first horrific moments after the Boston bombing, with smoke still billowing around the wounded, I know what is going through the minds of the maimed victims.
They are at once conscious and unconscious. They want to scream, but they cannot scream. They want to wake up from a nightmare, but they are awake.
Overcome with a sense of deja vu, I feel my past converge with the future of those wounded spectators.
I lost my leg in a bomb blast. I know the violent shock of a day that begins well and ends with an amputation, the fog of drugs and surgery, the months of painful rehabilitation.
I know the suffering that lies ahead for these people in Boston. And I know the possibilities, too.
A day after start of furloughs, airline service improves, but gov't warns of more problems
NEW YORK (AP) — A day after flight delays plagued much of the nation, air travel was smoother Tuesday, but the government warned passengers that the situation could change by the hour as thousands of air-traffic controllers are forced to take furloughs because of budget cuts.
Meanwhile, airlines and members of Congress urged the Federal Aviation Administration to find other ways to reduce spending. Airlines are worried about the long-term costs late flights will have on their budgets and on passengers.
"I just can't imagine this stays in place for an extended period of time. It's just such terrible policy," US Airways CEO Doug Parker said. "We can handle it for a little while, but it can't continue."
The delays are the most visible effect yet of Congress and the White House's failure to agree on a long-term deficit-reduction plan.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said no one should be surprised, noting that he warned about the potential for problems two months ago.
Judge tosses 3 murder charges against Pa. abortion doctor accused of killing babies born alive
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A judge tossed three of eight murder charges Tuesday in the high-profile trial of an abortion doctor accused of killing babies prosecutors say were born alive at a clinic they dubbed "a house of horrors."
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, still faces the death penalty if convicted on four remaining counts of first-degree murder involving babies he's accused of killing with scissors after they were born alive.
Judge Jeffrey Minehart did not explain why he dismissed the three murder counts but apparently felt he had not heard sufficient evidence from prosecutors that those three babies were viable, born alive and then killed. Much of the evidence during the five-week prosecution case has come from the recollections of former staff members, though their testimony was bolstered by graphic photographs of some of the aborted babies.
Prosecutors argued that the babies were viable and that Gosnell and his staff cut the backs of their necks to kill them.
"Why would you cut a baby in the back of the neck unless you were killing it?" Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron asked.
Apple to dole out $100B to shareholders through increased buybacks, dividends
NEW YORK (AP) — Apple is opening the doors to its bank vault, saying it will distribute $100 billion in cash to its shareholders by the end of 2015. At the same time, the company said revenue for the current quarter could fall from the year before, which would be the first decline in many years.
Apple CEO Tim Cook also suggested that the company won't release any new products until the fall, contrary to expectations that there would be a new iPhone and iPads out this summer.
Apple Inc. on Tuesday said it will expand its share buyback program to $60 billion — the largest buyback authorization in history. It is also raising its dividend by 15 percent from $2.65 to $3.05 per share. That equates to a dividend yield of 3 percent at current stock prices. The average yield for the 20 largest dividend-paying companies in the U.S. is 3.1 percent, according to Standard & Poor's.
Investors have been clamoring for Apple to give them access to its cash hoard, which ended March at an unprecedented $145 billion. Apple's tight grip on its cash, along with the lack of ground-breaking new products has been blamed for the steep decline in its stock price over the winter.
News of the cash bonanza coincided with the company's release of a poor quarterly outlook for the three-month period that ends in June.
Car bomb at French Embassy in Libyan capital wounds 3 in latest sign of deepening lawlessness
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — A car bomb exploded Tuesday outside the French Embassy in Tripoli, wounding three people and partially setting the building on fire in the worst attack on a diplomatic mission in the North African nation since the U.S. ambassador was killed last year.
The attack in the heart of the capital put new pressure on the Libya's new leaders to rein in the lawlessness that has gripped the country since 2011, when rebels ousted Moammar Gadhafi in a civil war and then refused to lay down their arms.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on the militias and the extremists in their ranks that are fighting the central government in Tripoli for control.
Some Libyans blamed Islamic militants seeking to avenge France's military intervention in Mali to dislodge al-Qaida-linked forces from the northern part of the West African country.
The motive for the attack was not immediately clear. On its official website, the Libyan government denounced such attacks, which it said are "directly targeting Libya's security and stability."