Sunday, February 16, 2014

Published:

South Korean tourists killed in bus bombing in Egypt; militant campaign against tourism feared

CAIRO (AP) -- An explosion tore through a bus filled with South Korean sightseers in the Sinai Peninsula on Sunday, killing at least four people and raising fears that Islamic militants have renewed a bloody campaign to wreck Egypt's tourism industry.

The bombing near the tip of the Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba was the first attack against tourists in Sinai in nearly a decade.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But the blast bore the hallmarks of attacks blamed on the al-Qaida-linked militant groups that have been battling government forces in Sinai's restive north for years.

At least three South Korean tourists were killed and 12 seriously wounded, according to Egyptian security officials. The Egyptian bus driver was also among the dead, the officials said.

"I am deeply saddened by the incident," Tourism Minister Hesham Zazou told state TV. The Egyptian presidency called the attack a "despicable act of cowardice" and vowed to bring the culprits to justice.

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Trial in Florida raises questions about self-defense and race just 7 months after Zimmerman

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- A verdict in the city of Jacksonville is again raising the issue of self-defense and race in Florida, just seven months after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting of a black teenager, Trayvon Martin.

Michael Dunn, a white 47-year-old software developer, could face 60 years in prison following his conviction Saturday on multiple counts of attempted murder for shooting into a carful of teenagers outside a Jacksonville convenience store in 2012. Jordan Davis, a black 17-year-old, was killed in the shooting, but the jury couldn't reach a verdict on the first-degree murder charge against Dunn. A mistrial was declared on that count.

The verdict is a far cry from one delivered in the Zimmerman case, when he was acquitted in July in the shooting death of 17-year-old Martin in Sanford, about 125 miles south of Jacksonville.

Like Zimmerman, Dunn said he felt his life was in danger when he fired the shots. But the verdict suggested the jury struggled to see it that way.

Following an argument over loud music coming from the car that Davis was in, Dunn said he shot at the car with his 9 mm handgun -- he said he was afraid and thought he saw a shotgun in the car.

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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. DEADLY BLAST KILLS AT LEAST 4 ON SINAI PENINSULA

The explosion that killed and injured South Korean tourists raises fears that Islamic militants have renewed a bloody campaign to wreck Egypt's tourism industry.

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Heroin laced with powerful prescription drug fentanyl causing fatal overdoses

POINT PLEASANT, N.J. (AP) -- On an icy night last month, a man entered a grocery store here, walked past the displays of cake mix and paper towels, and went into the bathroom, where he injected himself with heroin.

Hours later, the man was found dead in the bathroom with a needle still in his arm, authorities said. They believe the man was one of more than 80 across the country who have died in recent weeks after injecting heroin laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate.

As the number of people who use, and fatally overdose on, heroin has skyrocketed in recent years, authorities are seeing the return of an alarming development: heroin that, often unbeknownst to the user, is spiked with fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a narcotic that is typically administered to people in chronic pain, including end-stage cancer patients. It is also used as an anesthetic. It is considered 80 times more powerful than morphine and can kill by inhibiting breathing.

"The dealers push this as being a super high, which it is, but it's also lethal," said Ellen Unterwald, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the Temple University School of Medicine. Users typically don't know how much fentanyl is mixed in, and she said just a small amount can be fatal because the drug is so potent.

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Ukrainian protesters leave Kiev City Hall after nearly 3-month occupation

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Anti-government demonstrators in Ukraine's capital ended their nearly three-month occupation of Kiev City Hall on Sunday as promised in exchange for the release of all 234 jailed protesters.

But tensions remained high as hundreds stayed outside the building, vowing to retake it if the government failed to drop all charges against the protesters. Late that night, after a meeting with opposition leaders, Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said the criminal cases would be closed Monday.

Prospects for an easing of the standoff between the opposition and President Viktor Yanukovych, however, were still unclear.

Yanukovych is expected to nominate a new prime minister in the near future, and Western officials have been advocating for a coalition government drawn from the ruling party and the opposition. However, opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he will not agree to take the post, which Yanukovych offered him last month, unless the president makes further concessions, including a constitutional reform that reduces presidential powers.

"I cannot be bought with posts, Mr. President. Go ahead and buy your henchmen," Yatsenyuk told the tens of thousands of protesters who turned out for the traditional Sunday demonstration.

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House Democrats deploy unusual tactic to try to force votes on minimum wage, immigration

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Democrats are determined to cast an election-year spotlight on Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage and overhauling immigration laws.

To try to accomplish that in the GOP-controlled House, Democrats are planning to rely on an infrequently used, rarely successful tactic known as a "discharge petition."

It requires the minority party -- in this case, Democrats, who are unable to dictate the House agenda -- to persuade some two dozen Republicans to defy their leadership, join Democrats and force a vote on setting the federal minimum wage at $10.10 an hour.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Democrats will push the wage issue when Congress returns from its break Feb. 24. Forcing a vote on a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws could occur in a few months.

Democratic leaders argue that a majority of Americans favor both steps, which are priorities for President Barack Obama, and say the House GOP is the obstacle. Republicans say Democrats are embarking on an approach that they know has little chance of success in an attempt to circumvent the will of the GOP-led House.

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Prisoners nationwide using smuggled cellphones to plot escapes, commit crimes -- even Facebook

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- They're hidden in babies' diapers, ramen noodle soup packages, footballs, soda cans and even body cavities.

Not drugs or weapons, but cellphones. They're becoming a growing problem in prisons across the country as they are used to make threats, plan escapes and for inmates to continue to make money from illegal activity even while behind bars.

"You can pick states all across the country and you'll see everything from hits being ordered on individuals to criminal enterprises being run from inside institutions with cellphones," said Michael Crews, head of Florida's Department of Corrections.

When two murderers serving life sentences escaped from Florida Panhandle prison last fall, a search of their cells turned up a cellphone used to help plan the getaway, drawing attention to the burgeoning problem. It was just one of 4,200 cellphones confiscated by prison officials last year, or 11 per day.

"The scary part is, if we found 4,200, we know that's not all of them," Crews said.

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'12 Years a Slave' named best picture at British Academy Film Awards; 'Gravity' wins 6 prizes

LONDON (AP) -- The force of "Gravity" was strong at the British Academy Film Awards on Sunday -- but it was unflinching drama "12 Years a Slave" that took the top prize.

Steve McQueen's visceral, violent story of a free black man kidnapped into servitude in the 19th-century U.S. South was named best picture. Its star, Chiwetel Ejiofor, took the male acting trophy.

Ejiofor thanked McQueen, a visual artist who turned to filmmaking with "Hunger" and "Shame," for bringing the story to the screen.

Holding the trophy, the British actor told McQueen: "This is yours. I'm going to keep it -- that's the kind of guy I am -- but it's yours."

McQueen reminded the ceremony's black-tie audience that, in some parts of the world, slavery is not a thing of the past.

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Snake-handling Ky. pastor who appeared on reality TV show dies from snake bite at church

MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (AP) -- Jamie Coots, a snake-handling Kentucky pastor who appeared on the National Geographic television reality show "Snake Salvation," died Saturday after being bitten by a snake.

Coots was handling a rattlesnake during a Saturday night service at his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro when he was bitten, another preacher, Cody Winn, told WBIR-TV (http://on.wbir.com/1cLrs8A).

"Jamie went across the floor. He had one of the rattlers in his hand, he came over and he was standing beside me. It was plain view, it just turned its head and bit him in the back of the hand ... within a second," Winn said.

When an ambulance arrived at the church at 8:30 p.m., they were told Coots had gone home, the Middlesboro Police Department said in a news release. Contacted at his house, Coots refused medical treatment.

Emergency workers left about 9:10 p.m. When they returned about an hour later, Coots was dead from a venomous snake bite, police said.

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NFL faces question of what steps to take to prevent another Miami Dolphins bullying scandal

Now that the NFL knows the scope of the racially charged Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, the league has been left to grapple with what its next steps should be.

A report released Friday on the Miami case concluded with a one-paragraph call to action:

"As all must surely recognize, the NFL is not an ordinary workplace. Professional football is a rough, contact sport played by men of exceptional size, speed, strength and athleticism. But even the largest, strongest and fleetest person may be driven to despair by bullying, taunting and constant insults. We encourage the creation of new workplace conduct rules and guidelines that will help ensure that players respect each other as professionals and people."

League executives agree steps need to be taken, and have vowed to take action. But it may be difficult to regulate locker room behavior by determining when something a player considers to be harmless locker room nonsense crosses the line. Players are part of a team, but they are also individuals with different levels of sensitivity.

And as the report's call to action points out, the NFL is not an ordinary workplace -- and locker rooms are sanctuaries within those workplaces where even without the kinds of vicious taunts and racist insults cited in the report, behavior that would not be accepted in society is tolerated, and even condoned or encouraged.