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Columbia Missourian

WORLD BRIEFLY: Official commits to restoring trust in IRS

By The Associated Press
June 3, 2013 | 8:12 p.m. CDT

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

New IRS head says he is committed to restoring 'broken' trust in agency

WASHINGTON — His agency under relentless fire, the new head of the Internal Revenue Service acknowledged to Congress on Monday that American taxpayers no longer trust the IRS amid a growing number of scandals — from the targeting of conservative political groups to lavish spending on employee conferences.

But Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel declared he was "committed to restoring that trust." He said he has installed new leadership at the agency and is conducting a thorough review of what went wrong and how to fix it.

He promised the transparency that was lacking for several years as tea party groups complained about harassment by the IRS, only to be met with denials from the agency.

"We must have the trust of the American taxpayer. Unfortunately, that trust has been broken," Werfel told a House Appropriations subcommittee in his first public appearance since taking over the agency nearly two weeks ago. "The agency stands ready to confront the problems that occurred, hold accountable those who acted inappropriately, be open about what happened, and permanently fix these problems so that such missteps do not occur again."

"It has to start," Werfel added, "with a recognition that a trust has been violated."

Supreme Court says police can take DNA from suspects without warrants

WASHINGTON — A sharply divided Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for police to take a DNA swab from anyone they arrest for a serious crime, endorsing a practice now followed by more than half the states as well as the federal government.

The justices differed strikingly on how big a step that was.

"Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court's five-justice majority. The ruling backed a Maryland law allowing DNA swabbing of people arrested for serious crimes.

But the four dissenting justices said the court was allowing a major change in police powers, with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia predicting the limitation to "serious" crimes would not last.

"Make no mistake about it: Because of today's decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason," Scalia said in a sharp dissent which he read aloud in the courtroom. "This will solve some extra crimes, to be sure. But so would taking your DNA when you fly on an airplane — surely the TSA must know the 'identity' of the flying public. For that matter, so would taking your children's DNA when they start public school."

Prosecutor says Manning let enemy have secrets; defense cites his struggle to fit in as gay

FORT MEADE, Md. — Pfc. Bradley Manning put U.S. military secrets into the hands of Osama bin Laden himself, prosecutors said Monday as the Army intelligence analyst went on trial over the biggest leak of classified material in American history.

Manning's lawyers countered by arguing that he was a "young, naive but good-intentioned" soldier whose struggle to fit in as a gay man in the military made him feel he "needed to do something to make a difference in this world."

Manning, 25, has admitted turning over hundreds of thousands of documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, pleading guilty earlier this year to charges that could bring 20 years behind bars. But the military pressed ahead with a court-martial on more serious charges, including aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence.

Prosecutors said they will present evidence that bin Laden requested and obtained from another al-Qaida member Afghanistan battlefield reports and State Department cables published by WikiLeaks.

"This is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of documents from classified databases and then dumped that information onto the Internet into the hands of the enemy," prosecutor Capt. Joe Morrow said.

After deaths of pro storm chasers, industry questions risks and motivations

OKLAHOMA CITY — While most people hunker down when a tornado approaches, a growing contingent heads for the prairies, be they scientists hoping to protect the public from a twister's fury or amateurs armed with little more than a smartphone, a digital camera and a desire to sell 15 seconds of video to the nightly news.

But the deaths of three respected researchers near Oklahoma City have renewed questions over whether the risk of dashing off into violent storms in Tornado Alley is too great — regardless of the adrenaline rush.

"I think there will be some who will step back and say: 'Am I really doing something safe here?' " said Michael Armstrong, a meteorologist for KWTV in Oklahoma City. "I think you'll probably have others ... that just feel that invincibility that they've always felt and they'll keep doing what they're doing and basically look at it as though it was an aberration or an outlier."

Longtime storm chasers Tim Samaras, his son Paul and colleague Carl Young were killed Friday when a powerful tornado near El Reno, Okla., turned on them as they were conducting research. The National Weather Center issued a statement saying they are likely the first "storm intercept fatalities" among researchers.

Oklahoma is considered the "mecca of storm chasing," Tim Samaras told National Geographic just last month, and there are often hundreds of storm chasers lining the roads.

New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg dies at 89

TRENTON, N.J. — The next time a flight attendant reminds you there's no smoking or you witness a teenager getting carded at a liquor store, think of Frank Lautenberg.

The liberal Democratic senator from New Jersey left his mark on the everyday lives of millions of Americans, whether they know it or not. In the 1980s, he was a driving force behind the laws that banned smoking on most U.S. flights and made 21 the drinking age in all 50 states.

Lautenberg, a multimillionaire businessman who became an accomplished — if often underestimated — politician, died Monday at a New York hospital after suffering complications from viral pneumonia.

At 89, he was the oldest person in the Senate and the last of 115 World War II veterans to serve there.

"He improved the lives of countless Americans with his commitment to our nation's health and safety," President Barack Obama said in a statement, "from improving our public transportation to protecting citizens from gun violence to ensuring that members of our military and their families get the care they deserve."

Turkish prime minister dismisses protests against his government

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish riot police launched round after round of tear gas against protesters Monday, the fourth day of violent demonstrations, as the president and the prime minister staked competing positions on the unrest.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected the protesters' demands that he resign and dismissed the demonstrations as the work of Turkey's opposition. President Abdullah Gul, for his part, praised the mostly peaceful protesters as expressing their democratic rights.

The two men could face off next year in Turkey's presidential election.

Turkey has been rocked by violent demonstrations since Friday, when police launched a pre-dawn raid against a peaceful sit-in protesting plans to uproot trees in Istanbul's main Taksim Square. Since then, the demonstrations by mostly secular-minded Turks have spiraled into Turkey's biggest anti-government disturbances in years.

Clashes continued late into the night Monday in both Istanbul and Ankara.

Wounded and civilians entrapped in embattled Syrian town

BEIRUT — Cut off for three weeks by a regime siege, doctors in the Syrian town of Qusair are treating hundreds of wounded in battle-damaged homes and underground shop storerooms, short on antibiotics and anesthesia and using unsterilized cloth for bandages and hand pumps instead of oxygen canisters.

Amid relentless shelling, there are some 1,000 wounded, at least 300 of them seriously and in need of immediate evacuation, one doctor coordinating medical efforts in the town said Monday. But so far, the forces of President Bashar Assad's regime backed by fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group are barring any exit as they try to crush rebels and retake the town.

With the Syrian civil war well in its third year, Qusair, near the Lebanese border, has become the latest urban battleground in the grueling fight between Assad's military and the rebels trying to overthrow his regime. The heaviness of the battle reflects the strategic importance of the town, located on supply routes that are vital for both sides.

A doctor and an activist in the shattered town acknowledged Monday that regime forces have tightened their grip in recent days. But they said new reinforcements of hundreds of rebel fighters have managed to infiltrate the siege, in what is likely to prolong the fighting in this town once home to 40,000 people.

Qusair, an agricultural community once famous for its olive oil, is now a ghost town, said Rifaei Tammas, an activist reached through Skype.

Python hunter finds jewelry that could have come from planes that crashed in Everglades

MIAMI — Like most people who signed up for Florida's official Burmese python hunt last winter, Mark Rubinstein slogged a couple times through the Everglades without ever seeing one of the elusive snakes.

Something else caught his eye, though.

In the dirt along a levee, about 10 miles deep into the wetlands, Rubinstein found a gold pendant, with sapphires forming a cross inside a circle of diamonds. One edge of the penny-sized medallion was melted and misshapen.

It may have fallen from the sky. Rubinstein was hunting near the crash sites of two airplanes that went down in the same area: Eastern Flight 401, a New York flight that crashed as it prepared to land in Miami in 1972, and ValuJet Flight 592, a 1996 flight to Atlanta that caught fire shortly after takeoff and plummeted into the remote swamps west of Miami.

Rubinstein hopes to return the jewelry to its rightful owner.

Want younger-looking skin? Study advises using daily sunscreen, even in middle age

WASHINGTON — If worry about skin cancer doesn't make you slather on sunscreen, maybe vanity will: New research provides some of the strongest evidence to date that near-daily sunscreen use can slow the aging of your skin.

Ultraviolet rays that spur wrinkles and other signs of aging can quietly build up damage pretty much anytime you're in the sun — a lunchtime stroll, school recess, walking the dog — and they even penetrate car windows.

Researchers in sunny Australia used a unique study to measure whether sunscreens really help amid that onslaught. Participants had casts made of the top of their hands to measure fine lines and wrinkles that signal sun-caused aging.

The research found that even if you're already middle-aged, it's not too late to start rubbing some sunscreen on — and not just at the beach or pool. The study of 900 people under 55 compared those randomly assigned to use sunscreen daily to those who used it when they deemed it necessary.

Daily sunscreen use was tough — participants did cheat a little. But after 4½ years, those who used sunscreen regularly had younger-looking hands, with 24 percent less skin aging than those who used sunscreen only some of the time.

Dunkin' Donuts putting doughnut breakfast sandwich on national menu

NEW YORK — Even as fast-food chains tout their healthy offerings, they're also coming up with fatty new treats to keep customers interested. Case in point: Dunkin' Donuts is adding a doughnut breakfast sandwich to its national menu this week.

The sandwich, which comes with fried eggs and bacon between a split glazed doughnut, will become a part of the permanent menu starting Friday, which the chain claims is "National Donut Day." Dunkin' Donuts had tested the sandwich in select stores in eastern Massachusetts in April, creating considerable buzz online.

Notably, Dunkin' Donuts says the "Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich" clocks in at 360 calories, which is less than the 390 calories for the turkey sausage sandwich it recently introduced for people looking to eat better.

Dunkin' Donuts, based in Canton, Mass., is a unit of Dunkin' Brands Group Inc., which also owns Baskin-Robbins.

The latest concoction may seem to conflict with the push by companies to court customers with better-for-you offerings. For example, options like egg whites and whole grain bread have become common as fast-food chains scramble to attract people in their 20s and 30s, who they say want fresher, wholesome food.