Monday, March 10, 2014

Published:

Refusing to accept 'fait accompli,' Russia says it's preparing counterproposals over Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Russia said Monday it is drafting counterproposals to a U.S. plan for a negotiated solution to the Ukraine crisis, denouncing the new Western-backed government as an unacceptable "fait accompli" and claiming that Russian-leaning parts of the country have been plunged into lawlessness.

The Kremlin moves came as Russian forces strengthened their control over Crimea, less than a week before the strategic region is to hold a contentious referendum on whether to split off and become part of Russia.

In a televised briefing with President Vladimir Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said proposals made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are "not suitable" because they take "the situation created by the coup as a starting point," referring to the ouster of Ukraine's pro-Kremlin president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Referring to a document he received from Kerry explaining the U.S. view of the situation in Ukraine, Lavrov said: "To be frank, it raises many questions on our side."

"Everything was stated in terms of allegedly having a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and in terms of accepting the fait accompli," he said.

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Senate backs bill to eliminate 'good soldier' defense to combat sexual assault in military

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill late Monday making big changes in the military justice system to deal with sexual assault, including scrapping the nearly century-old practice of using a "good soldier defense" to raise doubts that a crime has been committed.

On a vote of 97-0, the Senate rallied behind a bipartisan plan crafted by three female senators -- Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska -- that would impose a half-dozen changes to combat the pervasive problem of rape and sexual offenses that Pentagon leaders have likened to a cancer within the ranks.

"Unanimous agreement in the U.S. Senate is pretty rare -- but rarer still is the kind of sweeping, historic change we've achieved over the past year in the military justice system," McCaskill said after the vote.

Still, that unanimous support was in sharp contrast to last week, when military leaders vigorously opposed a measure by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that would have stripped commanders of their authority to prosecute cases and given that power to seasoned military lawyers outside the chain of command. The Senate voted 55-45 for that farther-reaching bill, but that was five votes short of the necessary 60.

Though expressing certain reservations, the Pentagon had been generally accepting of the new bill.

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General's court-martial is thrown into jeopardy; judge sees undue influence in sex case

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) -- The sexual assault case against an Army general was thrown into jeopardy Monday when the judge said the military may have improperly pressed ahead with a trial to send a message about its determination to curb rape and other widespread misconduct.

Judge Col. James Pohl refused to dismiss the charges against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair but offered the defense another chance to plea-bargain the case with a set of military officials not previously involved with the matter.

The twist comes with the Pentagon under heavy pressure from Congress and beyond to combat rape and other sex crimes in the military. Late Monday, the Senate unanimously approved a bill making big changes in the military justice system to deal with sexual assault.

The judge reviewed newly disclosed emails in Sinclair's case and said he found the appearance of "unlawful command influence" in Fort Bragg officials' decision to reject a plea bargain with the general in January.

Under the military code of justice, the decision was supposed to be decided solely on the evidence, not its broader political implications.

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10 Things to Know for Tuesday

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

1. TWIST IN COURT-MARTIAL OF ARMY GENERAL

The sex assault case is jeopardized by word that the military may have pursued a trial partly to demonstrate that it does not take such allegations lightly.

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Joe McGinniss, news-making author of 'Fatal Vision,' 'Selling of the President,' dies at 71

NEW YORK (AP) -- Joe McGinniss, the adventurous and news-making author and reporter who skewered the marketing of Richard Nixon in "The Selling of the President 1968" and tracked his personal journey from sympathizer to scourge of convicted killer Jeffrey MacDonald in the blockbuster "Fatal Vision," died Monday at age 71.

McGinniss, who announced last year that he had been diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer, died from complications related to his disease. His attorney and longtime friend Dennis Holahan said he died at a hospital in Worcester, Mass.

Few journalists of his time so intrepidly pursued a story, burned so many bridges or more memorably placed themselves in the narrative, whether insisting on the guilt of MacDonald after seemingly befriending him or moving next door to Sarah Palin's house for a most unauthorized biography of the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate.

The tall, talkative McGinniss had early dreams of becoming a sports reporter and wrote books about soccer, horse racing and travel. But he was best known for two works that became touchstones in their respective genres -- campaign books ("The Selling of the President") and true crime ("Fatal Vision"). In both cases, he had become fascinated by the difference between public image and private reality.

McGinniss was a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1968 when an advertising man told him he was joining Hubert Humphrey's presidential campaign. Intrigued that candidates had advertising teams, McGinniss was inspired to write a book and tried to get access to Humphrey. The Democrat turned him down, but, according to McGinniss, Nixon aide Leonard Garment allowed him in, one of the last times the ever-suspicious Nixon would permit a journalist so much time around him. Garment and other Nixon aides were apparently unaware, or unconcerned, that McGinniss' heart was very much with the anti-war agitators the candidate so despised.

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Colorado officials report roughly $2M in recreational pot taxes in January, 1st month of sales

DENVER (AP) -- Colorado made roughly $2 million in marijuana taxes in January, state revenue officials reported Monday in the world's first accounting of the recreational pot business.

The tax total reported by the state Department of Revenue indicates $14.02 million worth of recreational pot was sold from 59 businesses. The state collected roughly $2.01 million in taxes.

Colorado legalized pot in 2012, but the commercial sale of marijuana didn't begin until January. Washington state sales begin in coming months.

The pot taxes come from 12.9 percent sales taxes and 15 percent excise taxes. Including licensing fees and taxes from Colorado's pre-existing medical marijuana industry, the state collected about $3.5 million from the marijuana industry in January.

That's a relative drop in the bucket for Colorado's roughly $20 billion annual budget, but still a windfall that has numerous interests holding out their hands. By comparison, Colorado made about $2.7 million in liquor excise taxes in January of last year. Statewide liquor receipts for January 2014 were not yet available Monday.

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How can jet disappear? It's happened repeatedly at sea, where finding any trace can take days

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- In an age when people assume that any bit of information is just a click away, the thought that a jetliner could simply disappear over the ocean for more than two days is staggering. But Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is hardly the first reminder of how big the seas are, and of how agonizing it can be to try to find something lost in them.

It took two years to find the main wreckage of an Air France jet that plunged into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. Closer to the area between Malaysia and Vietnam where Saturday's flight vanished, it took a week for debris from an Indonesian jet to be spotted in 2007. Today, the mostly intact fuselage still sits on the bottom of the ocean.

"The world is a big place," said Michael Smart, professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Queensland in Australia. "If it happens to come down in the middle of the ocean and it's not near a shipping lane or something, who knows how long it could take them to find?"

Amid the confusion, officials involved in the search say the Malaysian jet may have made a U-turn, adding one more level of uncertainty to the effort to find it. They even suggest that the plane could be hundreds of kilometers from where it was last detected.

Aviation experts say the plane will be found -- eventually. Since the start of the jet age in 1958, only a handful of jets have gone missing and not been found.

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Crimean Tatars fear return of Russian rule in historical homeland now part of Ukraine

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) -- The arrival of Russian troops in Crimea has opened old wounds among the Crimean Tatars, who were deported during World War II. Fearing that once again they will be unwelcome in their homeland, some are organizing community-watch patrols to protect their families and homes in a place they strongly feel should remain part of Ukraine.

Tensions have grown with preparations to hold a referendum on Sunday on whether Crimea should stay in Ukraine or join Russia.

"It turned out that there's a sudden sense of danger," said Dilyaver Reshetov, who heads the watch group in Simferopol's Akmechet neighborhood.

While Crimea's ethnic Russian majority may be in favor of joining Russia, Muslim Tatars have rallied to support the new Ukrainian leaders in Kiev. This, they fear, will make them a target of rising Russian nationalism on the Black Sea peninsula.

Shortly after pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych fled Ukraine two weeks ago, about 20,000 Tatars turned out for a rally in Simferopol, the Crimean capital, in support of the new pro-Western government in Kiev. They were confronted by a smaller pro-Russia rally, and at least 20 people were injured in clashes.

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Shoe-bomb witness testifies from London at NY terrorism trial of bin Laden son-in-law

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jurors at the terrorism trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law watched him threaten there would be no end to the "storm of airplanes" on videotapes made in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks Monday just before a British man testified by video from London that he trained to blow up a plane in late 2001 with a shoe bomb.

Prosecutors showed the New York jury video clips of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, threatening Americans in the weeks after the terror attacks to set the stage for testimony from Saajid Badat, a 34-year-old United Kingdom resident who refuses to testify in the United States because he faces terrorism charges in Boston that could send him to prison for life.

Badat said he trained with failed shoe-bomber Richard Reid to carry out separate shoe-bomb attacks aimed at downing planes over America or in Europe in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks were carried out with four hijacked airplanes.

He pleaded guilty in England in 2005 to conspiring to harm an aircraft and served six years in prison before his sentence was shortened through his cooperation. His plea came in connection with a 2001 plot to down an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes.

Prosecutors are using Badat's testimony to show that Abu Ghaith, as al-Qaida's spokesman, was in the thick of a conspiracy to create a second wave of airborne terrorism attacks while the debris left by the toppled twin towers of the World Trade Center was still burning.

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#This! Black Twitter coming out as force both on and offline

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michael Dunn's conviction of attempted murder -- but not actual murder -- in the shooting death of black teenager Jordan Davis prompted the creation of hashtag (hash)dangerousblackkids on Twitter. Users posted photos of black babies and toddlers, spoofing the fear that Dunn testified he felt before opening fire on a car full of teens at a convenience store.

That was the calling card of Black Twitter, a small corner of the social media giant where an unabashedly black spin on life gets served up 140 characters at a time.

Black Twitter holds court on pretty much everything from President Barack Obama to the latest TV reality show antics. But Black Twitter can also turn activist quickly. When it does, things happen -- like the cancellation of a book deal for a juror in the George Zimmerman trial, or the demise of Zimmerman's subsequent attempt to star at celebrity boxing.

Catchy hashtags give clues that the tweeting in question is a Black Twitter thing.

"It's kind of like the black table in the lunchroom, sort of, where people with like interests and experiences, and ways of talking and communication, lump together and talk among themselves," said Tracy Clayton, a blogger and editor at Buzzfeed known on Twitter as (at)brokeymcpoverty.