Saturday, February 15, 2014

Published:

Fla. man convicted of lesser counts in loud-music killing trial; mistrial on murder charge

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- A 47-year-old software developer was convicted Saturday of attempted murder for shooting into a carful of teenagers after an argument over what he called their "thug music," but jurors couldn't agree on the most serious charge of first-degree murder.

After more than 30 hours of jury deliberations over four days, a mistrial was declared on the murder charge that Michael Dunn faced in the fatal shooting of one of the black teens. The 12 jurors found him guilty of three counts of attempted second-degree murder and a count of firing into an occupied car.

Dunn was charged with fatally shooting 17-year-old Jordan Davis, of Marietta, Ga., in 2012 after the argument over loud music coming from the SUV occupied by Davis and three friends outside a Jacksonville convenience store. Dunn, who is white, had described the music to his fiancee as "thug music."

Dunn showed no emotion as the verdicts were read. Each attempted second-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, while the fourth charge he was convicted on carries a maximum of 15. A sentencing date will be set at a hearing next month.

Davis' parents each left the courtroom in tears, and afterward his mother, Lucia McBath, expressed gratitude for the verdict. Sunday would have been the teen's 19th birthday.

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Obama signs debt ceiling, military cost of living benefits measures into law

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) -- President Barack Obama on Saturday signed separate measures into law to lift the federal debt limit and restore benefits that had been cut for younger military retirees.

Obama signed the bills during a weekend golf vacation in Southern California.

The debt limit measure allows the government to borrow money to pay its bills, such as Social Security benefits and federal salaries. Failure to pass the measure, which the Senate passed 67-31 earlier this week and sent to Obama for his signature, most likely would have sent the stock market into a nosedive.

The Treasury Department is now free to borrow regularly through March 15, 2015, meaning lawmakers won't have to revisit the issue until a new Congress is sworn in after the November elections.

Separate legislation passed in December would have held annual cost-of-living increases for veterans age 62 and younger to 1 percentage point below the rate of inflation, beginning in 2015. The measure was designed to hold the line on the soaring cost of government benefit programs, which have largely escaped trillions of dollars in deficit cuts over the past three years.

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AP Exclusive: Data shows Army forcing more soldiers out due to misconduct; war partly to blame

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of U.S. soldiers forced out of the Army because of crimes or misconduct has soared in the past several years as the military emerges from a decade of war that put a greater focus on battle competence than on character.

Data obtained by The Associated Press shows that the number of officers who left the Army due to misconduct more than tripled in the past three years. The number of enlisted soldiers forced out for drugs, alcohol, crimes and other misconduct shot up from about 5,600 in 2007, as the Iraq war peaked, to more than 11,000 last year.

The data reveals stark differences between the military services and underscores the strains that long, repeated deployments to the front lines have had on the Army's soldiers and their leaders.

It also reflects the Army's rapid growth in the middle part of the decade, and the decisions to relax standards a bit to bring in and retain tens of thousands of soldiers to fill the ranks as the Pentagon added troops in Iraq and continued the fight in Afghanistan.

The Army grew to a peak of about 570,000 soldiers during the height of the wars, and soldiers represented the bulk of the troops on the battlefields compared with the other services.

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Plenty of Putin on display midway through an Olympics that delivers

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- No protests. No real problems.

But plenty of Putin.

Midway through the Winter Olympics, things couldn't be going much better for both Russia and its president, even if winter is actually missing from Sochi itself. The arenas and mountains are spectacular, the games have been peaceful and protest-free, and Russians seem filled with pride about their country's ability to put on a spectacle for the world to see.

Worries about terrorist attacks and fears that gay protests could overshadow the Olympics have faded as the world's best battle for medals on the ice and in the snow. Grandstands are mostly filled, television ratings are strong, and athletes haven't said a negative word about either Russia's laws or the food in the athlete's village.

Yes, a heat wave turned the snow a bit slushy and drew bathers to the Black Sea just steps from the main Olympic stadium. But weather is a factor at any Winter Games, and even Vladimir Putin can't do anything about that.

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AP PHOTOS: Halftime in Sochi

Four shootout goals lead the U.S. men's hockey team past Russia 3-2. Poland's Zbigniew Brodka of nabs gold in men's 1,500-meter speedskating. And Sweden wins Olympic gold in women's 4x5K cross-country relay.

Here's a look at the games midway through Sochi.

Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: http://apne.ws/1c3WMiu

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Brahimi: Face to face Syria peace talks end in doubt on 6th day of negotiations in Geneva

GENEVA (AP) -- U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi ended direct talks between the Syrian government and opposition Saturday without finding a way of breaking the impasse in peace talks.

Saturday's talks, which lasted less than half an hour, left the future of the negotiating process in doubt and no date was set for a third session.

Brahimi told a news conference that both sides agreed that the agenda for the next round should focus on four points: ending the violence and terrorism, creating a transitional governing body, building national institutions, and reconciliation.

To avoid losing another week or more before resuming discussions, Brahimi said he proposed that the first day should be reserved for talks on ending violence and combating terrorism, the main thrust of the government's stance, and the second for talking about how to create a transitional body, as the opposition and Western powers insist.

"Unfortunately the government has refused, which raises the suspicion of the opposition that in fact the government doesn't want to discuss the TGB (transitional governing body) at all," Brahimi said.

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T.J. Oshie's 4 shootout goals lead US past Russia 3-2 in a men's hockey thriller

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- T.J. Oshie brainstormed while he skated to center ice, desperately trying to come up with one last move to end an epic shootout. He had already taken five shots at Sergei Bobrovsky, and the Russians were still even.

Yet Oshie was chosen for the U.S. men's hockey team with just such a situation in mind, and the shootout specialist concocted one last clever goal to silence an arena filled with screaming Russian fans.

Oshie scored four times in the shootout and put the winner between Bobrovsky's legs in the eighth round, leading the United States past Russia 3-2 Saturday in the thrilling revival of a classic Olympic hockey rivalry.

"I was just thinking of something else I could do, trying to keep him guessing," said Oshie, the St. Louis Blues forward. "Had to go back to the same move a couple times, but I was glad it ended when it did. I was running out of moves there."

International rules allow the same player to take multiple shots after the first three rounds of a shootout, and U.S. coach Dan Bylsma leaned on Oshie's array of slick shots and change-of-pace approaches to the net. Oshie scored on the Americans' first shot before taking the last five in a row, going 4 for 6 against Bobrovsky and disappointing a Bolshoy Ice Dome crowd including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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UAW effort to organize Volkswagen plant fails amid conflicting cultures of company, region

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- The failure of the United Auto Workers to unionize employees at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee underscores a cultural disconnect between a labor-friendly German company and anti-union sentiment in the South.

The multiyear effort to organize Volkswagen's only U.S. plant was defeated on a 712-626 vote Friday night amid heavy campaigning on both sides.

Workers voting against the union said while they remain open to the creation of a German-style "works council" at the plant, they were unwilling to risk the future of the Volkswagen factory that opened to great fanfare on the site of a former Army ammunition plant in 2011.

"Come on, this is Chattanooga, Tennessee," said worker Mike Jarvis, who was among the group in the plant that organized to fight the UAW. "It's the greatest thing that's ever happened to us."

Jarvis, who hangs doors, trunk lids and hoods on cars said workers also were worried about the union's historical impact on Detroit automakers and the many plants that have been closed in the North, he said.

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US marijuana policy, pot wins in Colorado, Washington fuel push for legal pot worldwide

In a former colonial mansion in Jamaica, politicians huddle to discuss trying to ease marijuana laws in the land of the late reggae musician and cannabis evangelist Bob Marley. In Morocco, one of the world's top producers of the concentrated pot known as hashish, two leading political parties want to legalize its cultivation, at least for medical and industrial use.

And in Mexico City, the vast metropolis of a country ravaged by horrific cartel bloodshed, lawmakers have proposed a brand new plan to let stores sell the drug.

From the Americas to Europe to North Africa and beyond, the marijuana legalization movement is gaining unprecedented traction -- a nod to successful efforts in Colorado, Washington state and the small South American nation of Uruguay, which in December became the first country to approve nationwide pot legalization.

Leaders long weary of the drug war's violence and futility have been emboldened by changes in U.S. policy, even in the face of opposition from their own conservative populations. Some are eager to try an approach that focuses on public health instead of prohibition, and some see a potentially lucrative industry in cannabis regulation.

"A number of countries are saying, 'We've been curious about this, but we didn't think we could go this route,'" said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver law professor who helped write Colorado's marijuana regulations. "It's harder for the U.S. to look at other countries and say, 'You can't legalize, you can't decriminalize,' because it's going on here."

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Agent: Andrew McDonald, Player A in bullying report, has 'no problem with the Miami Dolphins'

A former Miami Dolphins lineman identified as one of the targets of harassment in the racially charged bullying scandal said Saturday that he has no problem with the team in a statement released by his agent.

Andrew McDonald, Player A in an NFL-ordered report released Friday by lawyer Ted Wells, said in the statement that he is "disappointed his name has become associated" with the revelations about the reported harassment.

The report of Jonathan Martin's allegations that he was harassed by teammate Richie Incognito, states that Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner didn't attempt to stop the behavior and even took part in some of the taunting of Player A.

McDonald's agent, Brett Tessler, said in the statement to The Associated Press that McDonald has "been a member of another organization since last season and is trying to focus on his future. When Ted Wells approached Andrew at the end of the investigation, Mr. Wells already had all the information contained in the report that he had gotten elsewhere.

"While Andrew can't speak for other players involved in the report, he personally has had no problem with the Miami Dolphins organization and has the highest opinion of Coach Turner both personally and professionally and feels terrible about the way their relationship has been portrayed in the report."