Sunday, January 26, 2014

Published:

Maryland mall gunman was an avid skater who had no criminal record prior to deadly attack

COLUMBIA, Md. (AP) -- The gunman who killed two people at a Maryland mall was a teenage skateboarding enthusiast who had no criminal record before he showed up at the shopping center armed with a shotgun, plenty of ammunition and a backpack filled with crude homemade explosives, authorities said Sunday.

Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19, took a taxi to the Mall in Columbia in suburban Baltimore on Saturday morning and entered the building near Zumiez, a shop that sells skateboarding gear. He went downstairs to a food court directly below the store, then returned less than an hour later, dumped the backpack in a dressing room and started shooting, police said.

Shoppers fled in a panic or barricaded themselves behind closed doors. When police arrived, they found three people dead -- two store employees and Aguilar, who had killed himself, authorities said.

The shooting baffled investigators and acquaintances of Aguilar, a quiet, skinny teenager who graduated from high school less than a year ago and had no previous run-ins with law enforcement. Police spent Sunday trying to piece together his motive, but it remained elusive.

Aguilar, who had concealed the shotgun in a bag, fired six to nine times. One victim, Brianna Benlolo, a 21-year-old single mother, lived half a mile away from Aguilar in the same College Park neighborhood, but police said they were still trying to determine what, if any, relationship they had.

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Top White House advisers warn Congress that Obama could go around them if agenda stalls again

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama will work with Congress where he can and circumvent lawmakers where he must, his top advisers warned Sunday in previewing Tuesday's State of the Union speech.

Obama faces a politically divided Congress on Tuesday and will use his annual address to demand expanded economic opportunity. Absent legislative action, the White House is telling lawmakers that the president is ready to take unilateral action to close the gap between rich and poor Americans.

"I think the way we have to think about this year is we have a divided government," said Dan Pfeiffer, a longtime Obama adviser. "The Republican Congress is not going to rubber-stamp the president's agenda. The president is not going to sign the Republican Congress' agenda."

So the White House is eyeing compromise on some priorities, Obama advisers said. But the president is also looking at executive orders that can be enacted without Congress' approval.

"The president sees this as a year of action to work with Congress where he can and to bypass Congress where necessary," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

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10 Things to Know for Monday

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

1. GUNMAN'S JOURNAL FOUND

Police say the 19-year-old shooter expressed unhappiness in his writings, but left no clear clue as to why he killed two workers at a Maryland mall.

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SHOW BITS: How did Pink do that?

Show Bits brings you Sunday's 56th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles through the eyes of Associated Press journalists. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.

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STARS CLINK DRINKS IN PLASTIC CUPS

Katy Perry noticed Robin Thicke sitting in front of her and reached out to toast the Blurred Lines singer during Ringo Starr's performance.

Both pop stars were drinking out of plastic cups -- though the cups weren't quite as glamorous as the new "sippy cup" Jay-Z joked that he acquired for his daughter Blue as he accepted the Grammy for best rap/sung collaboration for "Holy Grail."

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Lorde wins song of the year; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis leads with 4 Grammys, Timberlake has 3

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A 17-year-old from New Zealand has won the Grammy Award for song of the year.

Lorde's "Royals" beat out big hits from Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Pink and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis to win the top prize. Lorde also won best pop solo performance for her No. 1 hit.

"Thank you everyone who has let this song explode because it's been mental," she said. "Royals" is also nominated for record of the year.

Lorde is still behind Macklemore & Lewis, who won four Grammy Awards so far Sunday, including best new artist and rap album for "The Heist," beating efforts from Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z, Kanye West and Drake.

"Wow, we're here on the stage right now," said Macklemore, thanking fans first, then his fiancee and team. "I want to say we made this album without a record label, we made it independently and we appreciate all the support."

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Syria peace talks yield narrow deal on besieged city, government 'red line' on Assad

GENEVA (AP) -- Two days of face-to-face peace talks yielded a narrow and tentative agreement Sunday for women and children trapped in a besieged Syrian city, and the government said President Bashar Assad had no intention of giving up "the keys to Damascus."

With little progress to show after months of international pressure for the conference in Geneva, the U.N. mediator hoping to broker an end to Syria's civil war defended their pace.

"I think being too slow is a better way than going too fast," Lakhdar Brahimi said. "If you run, you may gain one hour and lose one week."

The limited agreement to let women and children leave a blockaded part of the old city of Homs, under negotiation for at least two days, fell far short of expectations and was called into question by multiple reports of government shelling.

The talks have yet to touch upon the issue of a possible transitional government -- their purpose according to terms laid out when they were first conceived. But the government was unequivocal that Assad's future was assured in the country led by his family since 1970.

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Family of brain-dead, pregnant Texas woman says hospital has removed life support

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- A brain-dead, pregnant Texas woman's body was removed from life support Sunday, as the hospital keeping her on machines against her family's wishes acceded to a judge's ruling that it was misapplying state law.

Marlise Munoz's body soon will be buried by her husband and parents, after John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth announced it would not fight Judge R.H. Wallace Jr.'s Friday order to pronounce her dead and return her body to her family. The 23-week-old fetus she was carrying will not be born.

The hospital's decision Sunday brings an apparent end to a case that became a touchstone for national debates about the beginning and end of life, and whether a pregnant woman who is considered legally and medically dead should be kept on life support for the sake of a fetus.

Munoz's husband, Erick Munoz, sued the hospital because it would not remove life support as he said his wife would have wanted in such a situation. Erick and Marlise Munoz worked as paramedics and were familiar with end-of-life issues, and Erick said his wife had told him she would not want to be kept alive under such circumstances.

But the hospital refused his request, citing Texas law that says life-sustaining treatment cannot be withdrawn from a pregnant patient, regardless of her end-of-life wishes.

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Brutal cold returns to Midwest for extended stay as weather pattern locked into deep freeze

CHICAGO (AP) -- A persistent weather pattern driving bitterly cold air south out of the Arctic will cause temperatures from Minnesota to Kentucky to plummet Monday, turning this winter into one of the coldest on record in some areas.

For about 2½ days, actual temperatures will range from the teens to below zero, and the wind chills with be even colder, minus 43 in Minneapolis, minus 23 in Milwaukee and Chicago, minus 14 in Kansas City, Mo., and minus 3 in Louisville.

In fact, the National Weather Service says most of the Midwest will feel far colder than Monday's expected high in the nation's northernmost city, Barrow, Alaska -- minus 4.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Scott Blair stopped short of calling the latest round of cold part of the polar vortex, which are winds that circulate around the North Pole.

"There's really nothing abnormal about the air that's coming into the area," he said. "It's just been a very persistent pattern" of cold air.

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Asian stocks dive as jitters continue to mount over world economy, Fed tightening

HONG KONG (AP) -- Asian stock markets tumbled Monday as investors factored in the possibility of slowing growth in China and a further reduction in U.S. central bank stimulus.

The global sell-off that is roiling world markets was triggered by preliminary results Thursday of a survey showing that China's manufacturing would contract in January.

Investors are also awaiting a two-day meeting by the U.S. Federal Reserve starting Tuesday, where officials are widely expected to reduce their monthly bond buying by another $10 billion to $65 billion. Turmoil in individual emerging markets such as Argentina, where the peso dropped 16 percent over two days last week, is also spooking investors.

Japan's Nikkei 225 sank 2.6 percent to 14,993.89 as investors sought out havens such as the Japanese yen, causing it to rise against the dollar which is negative for export stocks.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 2.3 percent to 21,937.46 and Seoul's Kospi dropped 1.7 percent to 1,907.90.

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A Super Bowl best served cold: Broncos, Seahawks arrive in an Apple that's anything but baked

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) -- An icy wind made its way through the Meadowlands, cut across the Hudson River and into frigid Manhattan. Looks like Mother Nature is taking seriously the NFL's slogan for the upcoming Super Bowl: Best Served Cold.

One week before kickoff, on the day the Broncos and Seahawks arrived in the frozen Big Apple, Sunday brought a bit of a thaw. Temperatures actually reached the low 20s.

Hardly balmy.

Not that the guys who will take the field at MetLife Stadium have any complaints or concerns. They'd play this one on the New Jersey tundra or in Death Valley.

"My team is excited," Peyton Manning said after the Broncos' flight landed in New Jersey. "We worked hard to earn this opportunity. We couldn't be more excited.