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WORLD BRIEFLY: Next phase of Jodi Arias trial postponed

Thursday, May 9, 2013 | 9:01 p.m. CDT

Here are today's top world and national news stories from The Associated Press.

Jodi Arias trial postponed until next week; jury to decide whether is eligible for death

PHOENIX — The next phase of the Jodi Arias murder trial was postponed Thursday and will continue next week.

Court officials didn't provide a reason for the delay. The trial will resume Wednesday.

The jury was scheduled to return to the courtroom to decide whether Arias should be eligible for the death penalty for killing her one-time boyfriend June 4, 2008.

The jury convicted Arias on Wednesday of first-degree murder in Travis Alexander's slaying at his suburban Phoenix home.

Despite Arias' wish that she get death, the decision is only up to a jury at this point. Arias could choose not to testify at the penalty phase and not appeal her conviction if she were to get death, but such scenarios are rare and still take years to play out.

Cleveland police: Ohio captive suffered 5 miscarriages after being beaten and starved

CLEVELAND — An Ohio prosecutor said Thursday he may seek the death penalty against Ariel Castro as investigators charged that he impregnated one of his captives at least five times and then starved her and punched her in the belly until she miscarried.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said aggravated murder charges punishable by death could be filed related to pregnancies terminated by force.

Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver, is being held on $8 million bail under a suicide watch in jail, where he is charged with rape and kidnapping for allegedly abducting three women and holding them captive in his home for a decade.

A police report obtained by the news media said Castro threatened, starved and raped the women.

Boston chief: City 'received no word' from the FBI about warning from Russia about Tsarnaev

WASHINGTON — The FBI did not initially share with Boston police the warnings it had received from Russia about one suspect in last month's marathon bombings, despite the work of four city police representatives on a federal terrorism task force, Boston's police commissioner told Congress on Thursday.

Yet Commissioner Ed Davis acknowledged that police might not have uncovered or disrupted the plot even if they had fully investigated the family of Tamerlan Tsarnaev based on those warnings. The FBI after a cursory investigation closed its assessment on Tsarnaev, who died in a police shootout after the bombings. Boston police learned about the Russian security service warnings only later.

"That's very hard to say. We would certainly look at the information, we would certainly talk to the individual," Davis said. "From the information I've received, the FBI did that, and they closed the case out. I can't say that I would have come to a different conclusion based upon the information that was known at that particular time."

In Massachusetts, meanwhile, Tsarnaev was secretly buried in an undisclosed location outside Worcester after a weeklong search for a community willing to take the body. Worcester police Sgt. Kerry Hazelhurst said Thursday the body was no longer in that city and had been entombed, but he would not say where.

The congressional hearing was the first in a series to review the government's initial response to the attacks, ask what information authorities received about Tsarnaev and his brother before the bombings and consider whether everything was handled correctly.

Iranian president's era nears its end but loyal political base hints at future clout

BIRJAND, Iran — When many struggling families in this eastern Iranian city take stock of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's legacy, it's not about the oratory full of bluster and menace or his tussles with Iran's ruling clerics that are known to much of the world.

What matters more here are the dusty rows of government-subsidized, two-story apartment buildings on the outskirts of the once-neglected outpost — testament to an effective populist outreach that has won the president millions of loyal backers in the provinces.

That support could give him influence beyond next month's election to pick his successor, underscoring how public opinion is relevant in Iran despite the heavy hand of clerical rule.

At first glance, Ahmadinejad may appear as a mostly spent political force. Damaging internal battles with the Islamic establishment over power and policies have left him so politically toxic in ruling circles that the possible leading candidates to replace him have all joined to ridicule his presidency.

But counting Ahmadinejad out grossly underestimates his most critical asset: A deep well of grateful and loyal supporters in hardscrabble places such as Birjand, a city of nearly 300,000 in wind-swept hills near the border with Afghanistan.

Speedy gang stole $45M worldwide through ATMs after hacking into prepaid debit cards, feds say

NEW YORK — A worldwide gang of criminals stole a total of $45 million in a matter of hours by hacking their way into a database of prepaid debit cards and then draining cash machines around the globe, federal prosecutors said Thursday — and outmoded U.S. card technology may be partly to blame.

Seven people are under arrest in the U.S. in connection with the case, which prosecutors said involved thousands of thefts from ATMs using bogus magnetic swipe cards carrying information from Middle Eastern banks. The fraudsters moved with astounding speed to loot financial institutions around the world, working in cells including one in New York, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said.

She called it "a massive 21st-century bank heist" carried out by brazen thieves.

One of the suspects was caught on surveillance cameras, his backpack increasingly loaded down with cash, authorities said. Others took photos of themselves with giant wads of bills as they made their way up and down Manhattan.

Immigration bill survives early tests as senators defeat GOP amendments on border security

WASHINGTON — The bipartisan coalition behind a contentious overhaul of immigration laws stuck together on a critical early series of test votes Thursday, turning back challenges from conservative critics as the Senate Judiciary Committee refined legislation to secure the borders and grant eventual citizenship to millions living in the United States illegally.

In a cavernous room packed with lobbyists and immigration activists, the panel rejected numerous moves to impose tougher conditions on border security before immigrants who entered the country illegally could take the first steps along a new pathway toward citizenship.

Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona — part of a bipartisan group that helped draft the measure — joined all 10 Democrats in blocking the changes. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who has yet to announce a position on the overall legislation, opposed one and supported the others.

Assuming the core political alignment remains intact, the committee is expected to approve the measure within two weeks and clear the way for an epic showdown on the Senate floor in June.

White House aides watched from the sidelines as the committee began its work on a bill that President Barack Obama has made a top priority in the opening months of his second term.

Karzai, uneasy about neighboring Pakistan's role, says U.S. can keep 9 bases in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has irked Washington with his frequent criticism of American military operations in his country, said Thursday that his government is now ready to let the U.S. have nine bases across Afghanistan after most foreign troops withdraw in 2014.

A border spat with Pakistan and a desire to test public opinion led Karzai to break months of public silence on this issue, according to Afghan analysts. They said Karzai is concerned that Pakistan is using the Taliban to give it greater leverage, and that he wants to find out if Afghans, tired of 12 years of war, will support that size of a U.S. military footprint.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that the U.S. "does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan." The U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 would be "only at the request of the Afghan government," Carney said.

Carney wouldn't say whether the U.S. was perhaps seeking a temporary presence on nine bases. An American defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the negotiations with the media, said earlier that he had not heard the number nine mentioned previously.

But Karzai said that's how many bases the Americans had requested.

U.S. home construction is rebounding, but builders say they can't find enough qualified workers

The resurgent U.S. housing market has sent builders calling again for Richard Vap, who owns a drywall installation company. Vap would love to help — if he could hire enough qualified people.

"There is a shortage of manpower," says Vap, owner of South Valley Drywall in Littleton, Colo. "We're probably only hiring about 75 or 80 percent of what we actually need."

U.S. builders and the subcontractors they depend on are struggling to hire fast enough to meet rising demand for new homes. Builders would be starting work on more homes — and contributing more to the economy — if they could fill more job openings.

In the meantime, workers in the right locations with the right skills are commanding higher pay.

The shortage of labor ranges across occupations — from construction superintendents and purchasing agents to painters, cabinet makers and drywall installers. The National Association of Home Builders says its members have complained of too few framers, roofers, plumbers and carpenters. The shortage is most acute in areas where demand for new homes has recovered fastest, notably in Arizona, California, Texas, Colorado and Florida.


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