AP News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Nov 11, 2009 6:18 PM

Death penalty possible for Fort Hood massacre suspect, but military executions have been rare

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Though the suspect in the shooting rampage at Fort Hood could face the death penalty, he will be prosecuted in a military justice system where no one has been executed in nearly a half-century.

Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist alleged to have killed 13 people at the massive Army installation in Texas last week, might also benefit from protections the military provides defendants that are greater than those offered in civilian federal courts.

"Our military justice system is not bloodthirsty. That's clear," said Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale.

Much about Hasan's case will be decided by a senior Army officer _ perhaps Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, Fort Hood's commander _ including whether to seek the death penalty and, in the event Hasan is convicted of capital murder, whether to commute a possible death sentence to life in prison.

Before a military execution can be carried out, the president must personally approve.

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Obama honors veterans, places wreath at Arlington National Cemetery

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) _ On a cold, rain-soaked Veterans Day, President Barack Obama walked slowly through the white, stone markers at the section of Arlington National Cemetery reserved for troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the two wars he oversees as commander in chief.

Obama led the nation Wednesday in observing Veterans Day with a traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington before an unannounced visit to the section reserved for those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We gather here mindful that the generation serving today already deserves a place alongside previous generations for the courage they have shown and the sacrifices that they have made," Obama said in a brief speech following the wreath-laying. Obama pledged he would do right by all veterans and families, saying: "America will not let you down."

The president spoke one day after honoring the victims of a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas. He said he was struck by the determination of the soldiers there, a quality that unites generations of American servicemen.

"To all of them _ to our veterans, to the fallen and to their families _ there is no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice," he said.

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Report: At least 9 other states face financial problems similar to California's

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ In Arizona, the budget has grown so gloomy that lawmakers are considering mortgaging Capitol buildings. In Michigan, state officials dealing with the nation's highest unemployment rate are slashing spending on schools and health care.

Drastic financial remedies are no longer limited to California, where a historic budget crisis earlier this year grew so bad that state agencies issued IOUs to pay bills.

A study released Wednesday warned that at least nine other big states are also barreling toward economic disaster, raising the likelihood of higher taxes, more government layoffs and deep cuts in services.

The report by the Pew Center on the States found that Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wisconsin are also at grave risk. Double-digit budget gaps, rising unemployment, high foreclosure rates and built-in budget constraints are the key reasons.

"While California often takes the spotlight, other states are facing hardships just as daunting," said Susan Urahn, managing director of the Washington, D.C.-based center. "Decisions these states make as they try to navigate the recession will play a role in how quickly the entire nation recovers."

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Afghanistan's future imperiled by ex-warlords in government amid pressure to end corruption

KABUL (AP) _ Warlords helped drive the Russians from Afghanistan, then shelled Kabul into ruins in a bloody civil war after the Soviets left.

Now they are back in positions of power, in part because the U.S. relied on them in 2001 to help oust the Taliban after the Sept. 11 attacks.

President Hamid Karzai later reached out to them to shore up his own power base as America turned its attention to Iraq after the Taliban's rout.

With the Taliban resurging, the entrenched power of the warlords is complicating Karzai's promises to rid his new government of corruption and cronies, steps seen as critical to building support among Afghans against the insurgents.

"You can't build a new political system with old politicians accused of war crimes," said lawmaker Ramazan Bashardost, who finished third in the country's fraud-marred August election. "You can't have peace with warlords in control."

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UNICEF says hunger causes stunted growth in early 200 million children around the world

ROME (AP) _ Nearly 200 million children in poor countries have stunted growth because of insufficient nutrition, according to a new report published by UNICEF Wednesday before a three-day international summit on the problem of world hunger.

The head of a U.N. food agency called on the world to join him in a day of fasting ahead of the summit to highlight the plight of 1 billion hungry people.

Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization, said he hoped the fast would encourage action by world leaders who will take part in the meeting at his agency's headquarters starting Monday.

The U.N. Children's Fund published a report saying that nearly 200 million children under five in poor countries were stunted by a lack of nutrients in their food.

More than 90 percent of those children live in Africa and Asia, and more than a third of all deaths in that age group are linked to undernutrition, according to UNICEF.

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Stench returns near Ohio house that held bodies; police take evidence from nearby home

CLEVELAND (AP) _ A stench around the home of a suspected serial killer returned stronger than ever Wednesday as police searched the house next door for more bodies and carried out bags of evidence.

"It's like it got worse," said 22-year-old neighbor Terrance Johnson. "It smells bad in the air, like death."

Four plainclothes officers carried bags of evidence from the house next door to Anthony Sowell's early Wednesday afternoon, but police did not indicate what had been removed. The red-painted house next to Sowell's appeared to be abandoned but in good shape, aside from a broken porch railing.

The 50-year-old Sowell has been charged with five counts of aggravated murder. He was indicted Monday on one count of attempted murder, two counts of rape, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of felonious assault in an alleged attack Sept. 22 that led to the search of his home.

The east-side neighborhood had reeked off and on for several years, and residents had blamed the odor on a broken sewer or a nearby sausage shop. Now most think the smell came from decomposing bodies.

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Israeli museum displays coins from Jewish revolt, destruction of biblical Jerusalem Temple

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel displayed for the first time Wednesday a collection of rare coins charred and burned from the Roman destruction of the Jewish Temple nearly 2,000 years ago.

About 70 coins were found in an excavation at the foot of a key Jerusalem holy site. They give a rare glimpse into the period of the Jewish revolt that eventually led to the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in A.D. 70, said Hava Katz, curator of the exhibition.

The Jews rebelled against the Roman Empire and took over Jerusalem in A.D. 66. After laying siege to Jerusalem, the Romans breached the city walls and wiped out the rebellion, demolishing the Jewish Temple, the holiest site in Judaism.

The coins sit inside a glass case, some melted down to unrecognizable chunks of pockmarked and carbonized bronze from the flames that destroyed the Temple.

"These really show us the impact of the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century," said Gabriela Bijovsky, an antique coin expert from Israel Antiquities Authority. "These are a very vivid, dramatic example of that destruction."

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Newly discovered dinosaur species dating back 200 million years found in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG (AP) _ A newly discovered dinosaur species that roamed the Earth about 200 million years ago may help explain how the creatures evolved into the largest animals on land, scientists in South Africa said Wednesday.

The Aardonyx celestae was a 23-foot- (7-meter-) long small-headed herbivore with a huge barrel of a chest. It walked on its hind legs but also could drop to all fours, and scientists told reporters that could prove to be a missing evolutionary link.

This is a species "that no one has seen before and one that has a very significant position in the family tree of dinosaurs," said Australian paleontologist Adam Yates.

Yates, who is based at the University of the Witwatersrand's Bernard Price Institute for Paleontological Research, led the research with a number of other local and international scientists.

Their findings were published Wednesday in the Proceedings of The Royal Society B, a London-based peer-reviewed journal.

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Stocks rise as Fed officials signal rates will stay low, industrial production in China rises

NEW YORK (AP) _ More signs that interest rates will remain low and upbeat economic news from China gave investors new reason to keep buying stocks Wednesday.

Federal Reserve officials signaled in speeches late Tuesday that a recovery in the economy is likely to be weak. Investors took that as another sign that policymakers will hold interest rates low to help resuscitate growth.

Expectations of low rates weighed on the dollar and gave a boost to commodities. Oil and gold held their advances even after the dollar pulled off of a 15-month low.

Investors also drew encouragement from a 16.1 percent jump in industrial production in China. That fanned expectations that a broader global recovery is gaining steam.

A jump in orders at luxury home builder Toll Brothers Inc. added to hopes that the U.S. economy was also improving.

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Baseball GMs wrap up their brief meeting and head out to play their offseason trades

CHICAGO (AP) _ General managers grabbed their bags, caught a quick lunch and headed down the corridor a short distance to their flights Wednesday after their annual meeting ended in a hotel at O'Hare International Airport.

No trades were announced during the three-day session.

"It's the same thing every year at this time of year," White Sox general manager Ken Williams said. "There is nothing to report."

GMs met with their counterparts and also greeted agents looking to lay the groundwork for free-agent deals after those players can start negotiating money with all teams on Nov. 20. Trade talk likely will percolate heading into the winter meetings in Indianapolis from Dec. 7-10.

There was one internal deal struck Wednesday as the Seattle Mariners agreed to a one-year contract to keep Ken Griffey Jr.