Corrections official: Ohio man who held 3 women captive for nearly a decade has hanged himself
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The man who held three women captive in his home for nearly a decade before one escaped and alerted authorities has been found dead and is believed to have committed suicide, a prison official said.
Ariel Castro, 53, was found hanging in his cell around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, located south of Columbus in central Ohio, JoEllen Smith, Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman, said early Wednesday.
Prison medical staff performed CPR before Castro was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead around 10:50 p.m.
He was in protective custody because of the notoriety of his case, meaning he was checked every 30 minutes, but was not on suicide watch, Smith said. She said suicide watch entails constant observation.
Castro was also watched closely in Cuyahoga County Jail in the several weeks after his arrest and before his case was resolved by a guilty plea, with logs noting his activity every 10 minutes. He was taken off county jail suicide watch in early June after authorities determined he was not a suicide risk.
Obama's plan for Syria intervention faces tougher test as GOP-led House holds 1st hearing
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is facing a tougher examination of its plans for military intervention in Syria, squaring off against tea party Republicans and other skeptical House members a day after gaining Speaker John Boehner's critical endorsement and finding significant support in the Senate.
With President Barack Obama in Europe, his top national security aides were to participate Wednesday in a series of public and private hearings at the Capitol to advance their case for limited strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime in retaliation for what the administration says was a deadly sarin gas attack by his forces outside Damascus last month.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee could vote on authorizing the use of force as early as Wednesday. The panel's top members drafted a resolution late Tuesday that permits Obama to order a "limited and tailored" military mission against Syria, as long as it doesn't exceed 90 days and involves no American troops on the ground for combat operations.
"We have pursued a course of action that gives the president the authority he needs to deploy force in response to the Assad regime's criminal use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, while assuring that the authorization is narrow and focused," said the committee's chairman, Sen. Bob Menendez, R-N.J., who drafted the measure with Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the panel's senior Republican.
"We have an obligation to act, not witness and watch while a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in plain view," Menendez said.
France says action against Syria would 're-balance' situation
PARIS (AP) — France's government offers a preview Wednesday of what the Obama administration faces next week, as lawmakers debate the wisdom and necessity of a military response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed hundreds.
Shoring up support for a military response, French officials said a punitive military response would help shift the balance in a 2 ½-year-old civil war that was tipping in favor of Bashar Assad.
"If you want a political solution you have to move the situation. If there's no sanction, Bashar Assad will say 'that's fine, I'll continue what I'm doing,'" France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told France Info radio Wednesday morning, hours ahead of the debate.
As the Obama administration worked to build its own support ahead of the Congress vote, the U.S. and Israel conducted a joint missile test Tuesday in the eastern Mediterranean in an apparent signal of military readiness. In the operation, a missile was fired from the sea toward the Israeli coast to test the tracking by the country's missile defense system.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of Assad's most vocal supporters, warned the West against taking one-sided action in Syria, although he told The Associated Press that Russia had frozen new shipments to Syria of an air defense missile system.
AP Interview: Putin warns West on attacking Syria, wants 'convincing' evidence on poison gas
NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia (AP) — President Vladimir Putin warned the West against taking one-sided action in Syria but also said Russia "doesn't exclude" supporting a U.N. resolution on punitive military strikes if it is proved that Damascus used poison gas on its own people.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press and Russia's state Channel 1 television, Putin said Moscow has provided some components of the S-300 air defense missile system to Syria but has frozen further shipments. He suggested that Russia may sell the potent missile systems elsewhere if Western nations attack Syria without U.N. Security Council backing.
The interview Tuesday night at Putin's country residence outside the Russian capital was the only one he granted prior to the summit of G-20 nations in St. Petersburg, which opens Thursday. The summit was supposed to concentrate on the global economy but now looks likely to be dominated by the international crisis over allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in the country's civil war.
Putin said he felt sorry that President Barack Obama canceled a one-on-one meeting in Moscow that was supposed to have happened before the summit. But he expressed hope the two would have serious discussions about Syria and other issues in St. Petersburg.
"President Obama hasn't been elected by the American people in order to be pleasant to Russia. And your humble servant hasn't been elected by the people of Russia to be pleasant to someone either," he said of their relationship.
Medical pot businesses look to DOJ memo allowing legal pot as roadmap to avoid prosecution
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Medical marijuana businesses worried that federal agents will close them down now have a roadmap to avoid prosecution, courtesy of the Justice Department's decision to allow legal pot in Colorado and Washington state.
The agency said last week that even though the drug remains illegal under federal law, it won't intervene to block state pot laws or prosecute as long as states create strict and effective controls that follow eight conditions.
"The DOJ is saying you guys need to color inside the lines," said Teri Robnett, founder of the Cannabis Patients Action Network, a Westminster, Colo.-based medical marijuana advocacy group. "If you color inside the lines, we'll let you keep your crayons.
"If you don't, we can come in and take your crayons away," she said.
The DOJ's policy memo comes after voters in Colorado and Washington last fall passed first-in-the-nation laws to allow recreational pot use and follows similar agency statements in recent years that helped spur the creation of medical marijuana systems across the U.S.
Syria tensions running high, Obama to showcase common global goals in brief visit to Sweden
STOCKHOLM (AP) — President Barack Obama is seeking to use a 24-hour visit to this Swedish capital to show a softer side of American diplomacy even as the world's gaze remains fixed anxiously on Syria.
He intends to focus in the Nordic nation on climate change, trade and technology, a trio of issues on which there is broad consensus with European allies. The topics are a marked departure from the thorny, pressing matters he's facing back home on national security and the economy. He also plans to pay homage to a Holocaust-era hero whose name is commemorated on street signs from Paris to Tel Aviv.
The president arrived Wednesday morning in Stockholm after an overnight flight from Washington, where lawmakers are weighing whether to approve Obama's request for a military strike against Syria. A day later, Obama was scheduled to travel to St. Petersburg, Russia, to meet with foreign leaders at the Group of 20 economic summit.
Greeting Obama on a mild, sunny morning at the Stockholm-Arlanda International Airport were Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and leaders of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's center-right coalition government.
Obama's trip to Sweden will mark the first bilateral visit by a sitting U.S. president to the northern European nation. While in Stockholm, Obama will meet with Reinfeldt and King Carl XVI Gustav and dine with Nordic leaders from Norway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark. He'll also stop at Sweden's premier technical university to call attention to Sweden's goal to phase out fossil fuels by 2050.
Immigrant asks California Supreme Court for law license over US DOJ objections
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Sergio Garcia arrived in the U.S. illegally 20 years ago to pick almonds in the field with his father. But that was not all he wanted for his life.
Working the fields and at a grocery store, he attended community college, studying to become a paralegal, and passed the California bar on the first try, a boast Gov. Jerry Brown, former Gov. Peter Wilson and nearly 50 percent of all first-time test takers can't make.
Now, still living in the U.S. illegally, he will ask the California Supreme Court on Wednesday to license him. He has the support of the state bar and California Attorney General Kamala Harris. The U.S. Department of Justice, however, is trying to block his request.
The DOJ argues in court filings that granting Garcia a law license card would violate a federal law barring people in the U.S. illegally from receiving government benefits. The agency argues the state Supreme Court and California bar officials use public money to license and regulate Garcia's practice.
The federal law was "plainly designed to preclude undocumented aliens from receiving commercial and professional licenses issued by states and the federal government," the DOJ said in court papers after the state's high court asked for the federal government's position.
Report finds most states lack basic disaster plans to safeguard kids in child care, schools
WASHINGTON (AP) — Eight years after Hurricane Katrina, most states still don't require four basic safety plans to protect children in school and child care from disasters, aid group Save the Children said in a report released Wednesday.
The group faulted 28 states and the District of Columbia for failing to require the emergency safety plans for schools and child care providers that were recommended by a national commission in the wake of Katrina. The lack of such plans could endanger children's lives and make it harder for them to be reunited with their families, the study said.
The states were: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
"Every workday, 68 million children are separated from their parents," Carolyn Miles, Save the Children's president and CEO, said in a statement with the group's annual disaster report card. "We owe it to these children to protect them before the next disaster strikes."
After Katrina exposed problems in the nation's disaster preparedness, the presidentially appointed National Commission on Children and Disaster issued final recommendations in 2010 .calling on the states to require K-12 schools to have comprehensive disaster preparedness plans and child care centers to have disaster plans for evacuation, family reunification and special needs students.
Review: 'Mega' phone is huge, appeal will be limited to those who want tablet as lone device
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Please turn off all electronic devices, the flight crew instructs as we approach Los Angeles. With a small phone, I might have gotten away with ignoring safety regulations. Samsung's new Galaxy Mega phone was too conspicuous for that.
The Mega shouldn't even be called a phone, if it weren't for the fact that it makes phone calls. With a screen measuring 6.3 inches diagonally, the Mega is more like a small Android tablet computer. It shares the tablet's advantages in showing more detail in photos and video. Text is larger and easier to read, too.
That doesn't make the Mega practical, though.
As a phone, it's huge. It doesn't fully fit in the pocket of my jeans, and it sometimes pokes at my stomach when sitting. It doesn't feel comfortable in my hands. I'm unable to grip it tightly because it's so wide, so I feel as if it's going to slip out of my hands. Without that grip, I also feel that it'll be easy for a thief to snatch it away.
A friend jokingly said that it was bigger than her head as she held it up to her ear. A cousin called it ridiculous. A co-worker pointed out that cellphones used to be big, too — in the 1970s.
Texas judge orders Lance Armstrong to answer doping questions in fraud lawsuit
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas judge is pushing Lance Armstrong closer to his first sworn testimony on details of his performance-enhancing drug use, ordering the cyclist to answer questions about who knew what and when about his doping, including possibly his ex-wife and his attorneys.
Nebraska-based Acceptance Insurance Holding is seeking the information in its lawsuit to recover $3 million in bonuses it paid Armstrong from 1999 to 2001. A judge previously refused to dismiss the case.
Acceptance is trying to prove a yearslong conspiracy and cover-up by Armstrong to commit fraud. It wants to know when several of Armstrong's personal and business associates — including ex-wife Kristin Armstrong, team officials, the cyclist's lawyers and International Cycling Union President Pat McQuaid — first learned of his doping.
Armstrong's attorneys objected to those demands in court documents, arguing the former cyclist already has acknowledged cheating and that Acceptance is engaged in a "harassing, malicious ... fishing expedition" intended to "make a spectacle of Armstrong's doping."
Travis County District Judge Tim Sulak last week ordered Armstrong to provide documents and written answers to a series of questions by the end of September. The case has been set for trial in April 2014.