Friday, December 13, 2013

Published:

Gunman, 18, enters Colorado high school in search of teacher, wounds classmate, kills himself

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) -- A teenager who may have had a grudge against a teacher opened fire Friday with a shotgun at a suburban Denver high school, wounding a fellow student before killing himself.

Quick-thinking students alerted the targeted teacher, who quickly left the building. The scene unfolded on the eve of the Newtown massacre anniversary, a somber reminder of the ever-present potential for violence in the nation's schools.

The wounded student, a 15-year-old girl, underwent surgery and was in critical condition. Authorities originally said a second student was wounded, but Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Friday night that the other girl taken to a hospital was covered in blood from the other student, but wasn't injured.

Robinson identified the shooter as Karl Halverson Pierson, 18. The sheriff did not elaborate on any possible motive except to say Pierson had had a "confrontation or disagreement" with the teacher.

Pierson made no attempt to hide his weapon after entering the school from a parking lot and asking for the teacher by name, Robinson said.

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Mandela memorial fake sign language interpreter reportedly faced murder charge a decade ago

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- South Africa's government was confronted Friday with a new and chilling allegation about the bogus sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial: He was reportedly accused of murder 10 years ago.

Officials said they were investigating the revelation by the national eNCA TV news station. But they were unable, or unwilling, to explain why a man who says he is schizophrenic with violent tendencies was allowed to get within arm's length of President Barack Obama and other world leaders.

Investigators probing Thamsanqa Jantjie "will compile a comprehensive report," said Phumla Williams, the top government spokeswoman. But she did not say how long the investigation would take and insisted details would not be released until it was completed.

"We are not going to sweep it under the carpet," Williams said. "We want to own up if there is a mistake, but we don't want to be dishonest" to Jantjie.

An Associated Press reporter found Jantjie at a makeshift bar owned by his cousin on the outskirts of Soweto Friday, near his concrete house close to shacks and an illegal dump where goats pick at grass between the trash. Asked about the murder allegation, Jantjie turned and walked away without saying anything.

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Kansas airport worker arrested in plot to bomb Wichita airport to support al-Qaida

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- A Kansas man who prosecutors say sympathized with violent terrorists was arrested Friday as part of an FBI sting after he drove a vehicle loaded with what he thought were explosives to a Wichita airport.

Investigators allege that Terry Lee Loewen planned to attack Wichita's Mid-Continent Regional airport in a plot aimed at supporting al-Qaida.

Loewen, a 58-year-old avionics technician who worked at the airport for Hawker Beechcraft, was arrested before dawn as he tried to drive onto the tarmac. The materials in the car were inert, and no one at the airport was in any immediate danger, authorities said.

Loewen, who lives in Wichita, had been under investigation for about six months after making online statements about wanting to commit "violent jihad" against the United States, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said. An undercover FBI agent befriended Loewen, striking up conversations about terrorism and Loewen's admiration for those who plotted against American interests.

Authorities said Loewen spent months studying the layout of the airport, its flight patterns and other details to maximize fatalities and damage in an attack. During that time, he developed a plan with other conspirators to use his employee access card to pull off the attack. The conspirators were actually undercover FBI agents.

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Jang's execution raises concern over future of NKorea's economic cooperation with ally China

BEIJING (AP) -- The stunning execution of Kim Jong Un's powerful uncle strips China of its most important link to North Korea's leadership and deepens concerns over how the unruly neighbor will proceed on Beijing's key issues of nuclear disarmament and economic reform.

Facing heightened uncertainty, Beijing will likely avoid for now any response that might boost panic or paranoia in Pyongyang, where China is both valued and resented as a key backer of Kim's regime.

"It's like when you have a gas leak. You want to be very, very careful not to set off any sparks," said Jingdong Yuan, an expert on northeast Asian security at the University of Sydney.

At the same time, China is likely dusting off its contingency plans for instability or even a regime collapse that could see thousands of refugees swarming across its borders, put the North's nuclear facilities at risk, and prompt action by the U.S. and South Korean militaries, Yuan said.

"This is not a welcome development as far as China is concerned," said.

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Missing American: Pressure on administration to find CIA contractor who disappeared in Iran

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration faced intensified pressure Friday to find former CIA contractor Robert Levinson -- both from lawmakers and the Levinson family -- nearly seven years after he disappeared in Iran during what now has been revealed as an unofficial spy mission.

Levinson's family urged the government "to step up and take care of one of its own." Members of Congress said they wanted to know more about the case, which led to three veteran analysts being forced out of the agency and seven others being disciplined.

Levinson vanished after a March 2007 meeting with an admitted killer on Kish Island, an Iranian resort. For years, the U.S. publicly described him as a private citizen who traveled to the tiny Persian Gulf island on business. But an Associated Press investigation revealed that Levinson actually was a contractor working for the CIA, and was paid by a team of agency analysts who were acting without authority to run spy operations to gather intelligence.

If he is still alive at age 65, Levinson has been captive longer than any other American known to be held overseas.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Levinson, who retired after 28 years at the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, was not a U.S. employee at the time of his disappearance.

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Findings in AP investigation of missing American

Findings from an Associated Press investigation of CIA contractor Robert Levinson's March 2007 disappearance in Iran.

-- Levinson was on an unauthorized spy operation for the CIA when he disappeared.

-- After Levinson's disappearance, the CIA told lawmakers he had previously done contract work for the agency, but he had no current relationship with the agency and there was no connection to Iran.

-- In October 2007, Levinson's lawyer discovered emails in which Levinson tells a friend at the CIA he was working to develop a source with access to the Iranian regime. The emails were turned over to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which touched off an internal CIA investigation.

-- Three veteran analysts were forced out of the CIA and seven others were disciplined as a result of a breach of agency rules.

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Senate sets vote next week on budget legislation; passage expected

WASHINGTON (AP) -- One day after winning lopsided House approval, bipartisan legislation to ease across-the-board spending cuts and reduce economy-rattling budget brinkmanship appears likely to command the 60 votes necessary to clear the Senate, officials in both parties said Friday.

Yet unlike in the House, significantly more Senate Republicans are expected to oppose the legislation than vote for it, highlighting the different political forces at work at opposite ends of the Capitol.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced a test vote for Tuesday on the measure, which cleared the House on an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 332-94.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars joined the ranks of the bill's opponents during the day, citing a provision to reduce cost of living increases for military retirees until they reach age 62. The result could mean "a cumulative loss in retirement income of $80,000" for a sergeant first class who retires at age 40, the group said.

"Although Iraq is over and the war in Afghanistan is winding down, we can't allow Congress to dismantle the programs they created over the past 12 years," said William A. Thien, the VFW's national commander.

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AP Photos: Images from Conn. school shooting tell story of town's grief, recovery efforts

As incredible as the news coming out of Newtown was a year ago, as wrenching as the images of frightened children and grieving relatives were, delicate expressions of support and hope also emerged.

White roses bearing the visages and names of those who lost their lives to the gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The warm nighttime glow of a church offering solace to the mourning. A pile of snow-dusted teddy bears laid out in homage to the tiny victims.

Other images -- including those of the gunman and evidence photos from within the school -- drive home the senselessness of the day folks in Newtown simply call "12/14."

Here's a gallery of images that show the horror that visited a New England town on a December day, and its resilience.

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Officials raise Mega Millions jackpot to $425 million following brisk sales

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Superstition didn't deter players hoping that Friday the 13th would bring them good luck in the recently revamped Mega Millions game, as heavy sales prompted lottery officials to boost the jackpot from $400 million to $425 million.

Paula Otto, the Virginia Lottery's executive director and Mega Millions' lead director, said sales were 40 percent ahead of projections, prompting officials to boost the jackpot before the Friday night drawing.

"Won't it be fun if we have a huge lottery winner on Friday the 13th?" she said. "I always say there are no unlucky numbers in the lottery. I work on the 13th floor of our building. I like 13."

The estimated $425 million jackpot is the second-largest Mega Millions jackpot ever, trailing a $656 million jackpot in March 2012, and it is the fifth-largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history. The current jackpot has rolled over 20 times, and a winner from Friday night's drawing could have a cash option of $228 million before taxes.

Tom Leuangkhamsone doesn't usually play Mega Millions, but he bought one ticket Friday morning at a convenience store in Atlanta.

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Khloe Kardashian files for divorce from Lamar Odom after 4 years of marriage

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- After months of speculation, Khloe Kardashian is ending her four-year marriage to Lamar Odom.

The reality TV star filed for divorce Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, citing irreconcilable differences. She also wants her last name restored to Kardashian from Kardashian Odom.

The filing comes days after Odom pleaded no contest on Monday to a misdemeanor drunken driving charge.

The 34-year-old athlete was arrested last August after his Mercedes-Benz SUV was seen weaving on an LA freeway.

He seemed to address rumors of personal problems when he tweeted a cryptic message in September, saying he had been "Seeing the Snakes."