Thursday, April 3, 2014

Published:

Soldier who killed 3 at Fort Hood may have argued with others before opening fire on base

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) -- The soldier who killed three people at Fort Hood may have argued with another service member prior to the attack, and investigators believe his unstable mental health contributed to the rampage, authorities said Thursday.

The base's senior officer, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said there is a "strong possibility" that Spc. Ivan Lopez had a "verbal altercation" with another soldier or soldiers immediately before Wednesday's shooting, which unfolded on the same Army post that was the scene of an infamous 2009 mass shooting.

However, there's no indication that he targeted specific soldiers, Milley said.

Lopez never saw combat during a deployment to Iraq and had shown no apparent risk of violence before the shooting, officials said.

The 34-year-old truck driver from Puerto Rico seemed to have a clean record that showed no ties to extremist groups. But the Army secretary promised that investigators would keep all avenues open in their inquiry of the soldier whose rampage ended only after he fired a final bullet into his own head.

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Fort Hood gunman described as friendly, 'laid-back' and passionate about music

GUAYANILLA, Puerto Rico (AP) -- He grew up in Puerto Rico and played percussion in his high school band. He spent a decade working as a police officer and serving in the National Guard, part of that time as a peacekeeper in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. And then he joined the U.S. Army.

That was Ivan Lopez's seemingly unremarkable route into the military. But what happened from there -- and why the 34-year-old soldier turned against his comrades at Fort Hood, Texas, with such deadly fury -- baffled some of those who knew him.

"He had a lot of friends. I never saw him fighting. He never seemed like a boy who had emotional problems," said Guayanilla Mayor Edgardo Arlequin Velez, who was also the leader of the school band that Lopez played in in this small, working-class town.

But Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Mark Milley said Thursday that there was evidence Lopez was psychologically unstable, and that was believed to be a "fundamental underlying cause" in Wednesday's shooting rampage, in which Lopez killed three people, wounded 16 and took his own life.

Lopez was sent to Iraq as a truck driver in 2011 during the final months of the war there. He did not see combat and was not wounded, military officials said.

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10 Things to Know for Friday

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

1. ARGUMENT MAY HAVE PRECEDED FORT HOOD SHOOTING

Spc. Ivan Lopez possibly had a "verbal altercation" with another soldier just before he gunned down three people at the Texas post, authorities say.

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AP Investigation: US secretly created 'Cuban Twitter' with front companies to stir unrest

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In July 2010, Joe McSpedon, a U.S. government official, flew to Barcelona to put the final touches on a secret plan to build a social media project aimed at undermining Cuba's communist government.

McSpedon and his team of high-tech contractors had come in from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Washington and Denver. Their mission: to launch a messaging network that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans. To hide the network from the Cuban government, they would set up a byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account, and recruit executives who would not be told of the company's ties to the U.S. government.

McSpedon didn't work for the CIA. This was a program paid for and run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid.

According to documents obtained by The Associated Press and multiple interviews with people involved in the project, the plan was to develop a bare-bones "Cuban Twitter," using cellphone text messaging to evade Cuba's strict control of information and its stranglehold restrictions over the Internet. In a play on Twitter, it was called ZunZuneo -- slang for a Cuban hummingbird's tweet.

Documents show the U.S. government planned to build a subscriber base through "non-controversial content": news messages on soccer, music and hurricane updates. Later when the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize "smart mobs" -- mass gatherings called at a moment's notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, "renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society."

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Documents: Washington county considered buying up homes in area of deadly landslide

SEATTLE (AP) -- A decade before a colossal landslide buried a Washington community, county officials considered buying up people's homes there to protect them from such a disaster.

A 2004 Snohomish County flood-management plan said the cost of buying Oso properties and removing residents from the path of a potential slide "would be significant, but would remove the risk to human life and structures."

But after weighing several options, the county instead recommended a project to shore up the base of the unstable hillside above the community about 55 miles north of Seattle, according to documents first reported by The Seattle Times.

A huge log wall was eventually built to reduce landslide and flood risks. But it wasn't enough to hold back the square mile of dirt, sand and silt that barreled down the hillside March 22, leveling homes and killing at least 30 people.

Some area residents and their family members say they knew nothing of the landslide danger or home-buyout proposals.

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David Letterman 'wrapping things up' as CBS 'Late Show' host, announces retirement next year

NEW YORK (AP) -- David Letterman's departure from the late-night realm won't just end an unmatched run on television. It also will close the book on an era reaching almost to the birth of TV.

During a taping of Thursday's edition of "Late Show," Letterman startled his audience with the news that he will step down in 2015, when his current contract with CBS expires.

He specified no end date, saying he expects his exit will be in "at least a year or so, but sometime in the not too distant future -- 2015, for the love of God, (band leader) Paul (Shaffer) and I will be wrapping things up."

What he'll be wrapping up is three decades on the air -- the longest tenure of any late-night talk show host in U.S. television history -- since he launched "Late Night" at NBC in 1982.

But more than that, he'll be ending a lineage of late-night hosts who pioneered talk and humor in the wee hours -- Johnny Carson, of course, and, before him, Jack Paar and especially Steve Allen.

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Texas executes serial killer with new supply of lethal drug from secret provider

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) -- A serial killer was put to death Thursday in Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his lawyers' demand that the state release information about where it gets its lethal injection drug.

Tommy Lynn Sells, 49, was the first inmate to be injected with a dose of newly replenished pentobarbital that Texas prison officials obtained to replace an expired supply of the powerful sedative. When asked if he wanted to make a statement before his execution, Sells replied: "No."

As the drug began flowing into his arms inside the death chamber in Huntsville, Sells took a few breaths, his eyes closed and he began to snore. After less than a minute, he stopped moving. He was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m. CDT -- 13 minutes after being given the pentobarbital.

Terry Harris, whose 13-year-old daughter, Kaylene Harris, was fatally stabbed by Sells in 1999 in South Texas, watched as Sells was executed, saying the injection was "way more gentle than what he gave out."

"Basically, the dude just took a nap," the father told reporters later outside the prison.

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Miss. gov signs religious practices bill; some worry it could stir anti-gay discrimination

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill Thursday that supporters say will assure unfettered practice of religion without government interference but that opponents worry could lead to state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The bill, called the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, will become law July 1. It also will add "In God We Trust" to the state seal.

An early version of the bill, considered weeks ago, was similar to one Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, vetoed after business groups said it could hurt that state's economy. Supporters say the final Mississippi bill bears little resemblance to the failed Arizona measure.

Outside the state Capitol on Thursday, more than 75 gay-rights supporters protested against the bill. Jeff White of Waveland, a founder of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Lesbian and Gay Community Center, said as someone who is gay and Jewish, he worries such a new law could make him more vulnerable to unfair treatment.

"It's the first time in my life that I've actually considered moving out of Mississippi," said White, 32. "It made me physically ill the past few days, realizing what they're trying to do."

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Australia says more planes added to search for missing Malaysian passenger jet

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- Search crews hunting for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 headed back out to a remote patch of the Indian Ocean on Friday, a day after leaders of the two countries heading multinational efforts to find the missing jetliner vowed that no effort would be spared to give closure to the families of those on board.

More resources were committed to the search Friday, with 14 planes and nine ships planning to scour a 217,000 square kilometer (84,000 square mile) expanse about 1,700 kilometers (1,100 miles) northwest of Perth, the Joint Agency Coordination Center overseeing the search said. Ten planes were involved in Thursday's search.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott met with staff on Friday at the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is running the search efforts, and acknowledged officials have no idea how long the hunt would continue.

"It is probably the most difficult search that's ever been mounted," Abbott told staffers. "A large aircraft seems like something that would be easy enough to locate -- but a large aircraft that all but disappeared and disappeared into inaccessible oceans is an extraordinary, extraordinary challenge that you're faced with."

No trace of the jetliner has been found nearly four weeks after it vanished in the early hours of March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

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10 memorable 'Late Show' quotes from David Letterman

Ten memorable quotes from David Letterman, who announced he's retiring from "Late Show" on Thursday:

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"I think the longer we just sit here, the more uncomfortable it will make Jay." -- Letterman after sharing awkward silence with Conan O'Brien following the fellow talk show host's mix-up with Jay Leno in 2012.

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"You're going to be sick for weeks. You won't be out of the egg for a month." -- Letterman to Lady Gaga after the outlandish pop star put his notes in her mouth during an appearance in 2011.