Briefs | 12-31-15

Bill Cosby charged with drugging, sexually assaulting woman

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Bill Cosby charged with drugging, sexually assaulting woman

ELKINS PARK, Pa. (AP) — Bill Cosby was arrested in the twilight of his life and career Wednesday and charged with a decade-old sex crime after a barrage of accusations from dozens of women made a mockery of his image as TV’s wise and understanding Dr. Cliff Huxtable.

Holding a cane, the 78-year-old comedian walked slowly and unsteadily into court on the arms of his lawyers to answer charges he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman less than half his age at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He had no comment as he was released on $1 million bail.

The case marks the first time Cosby has been charged with sexual misconduct despite years of lurid allegations and sets the stage for perhaps the biggest Hollywood celebrity trial of the mobile-news era.

“Make no mistake: We intend to mount a vigorous defense against this unjustified charge, and we expect that Mr. Cosby will be exonerated by a court of law,” his attorney Monique Pressley said in a statement.

The decision to prosecute came just days before Pennsylvania’s 12-year statute of limitations for bringing charges was set to run out. It represents an about-face by the district attorney’s office, which under a previous DA declined to charge Cosby in 2005 when the woman first told police that the comic put his hands down her pants.

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Officials: ‘Affluenza’ teen remains in Mexico, mom deported

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Texas teenager known for using an “affluenza” defense in a fatal drunken-driving accident likely won’t return to the U.S. anytime soon because of a Mexican judge’s decision to delay his deportation Wednesday, but a Mexico immigration official said his mother was being flown to Los Angeles.

Richard Hunter, chief deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service in South Texas, said during a news conference in Houston that a three-day court injunction granted to Ethan Couch will likely take at least two weeks to resolve.

Later in the day, however, the teen’s mother, Tonya Couch, was put on a plane to be flown from Guadalajara to Los Angeles, an official with Mexico’s National Immigration Institute told The Associated Press.

The official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the woman was sent to the United States because immigration authorities did not receive a judge’s injunction like the one that temporarily blocked her son’s deportation.

Ethan Couch remained in the custody of immigration officials in Guadalajara.

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Turks, Belgians report foiling plans for holiday attacks

ANKARA, Turkey — With less than 48 hours left in 2015, Turkey on Wednesday became the latest country to announce the foiling of a holiday attack plot, detaining two suspected Islamic State militants believed to be planning suicide bombings during New Year celebrations in the capital city’s heart.

“They were caught before they had the opportunity to take action,” said the office of the chief prosecutor of Ankara, Turkey’s capital.

The men were detained in a raid on a house in the low-income Mamak neighborhood, where police seized a suicide vest armed with a bomb, a second explosive device that was fortified with ball bearings and metal sticks and concealed inside a back pack, as well as bomb-making equipment, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The two men, Turkish nationals identified only by their initials M.C. and A.Y., were being questioned by anti-terrorism police. The prosecutor’s office said the men had staked out possible locations in Ankara where they could carry out the attacks.

The state-run Anadolu Agency, quoting unnamed police and judiciary officials, said the would-be bombers had intended to blow themselves up during holiday festivities at bars and a shopping mall in the central Kizilay district.

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Mayor: Chicago police reforms should make force last option

CHICAGO — Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday that Chicago police must be better trained to distinguish between when they can use a gun and when they should use a gun, after a series of shootings by officers sparked protests and complaints that police are too quick to fire their weapons.

Emanuel announced changes in police training and department policies on use of force during a news conference, pledging “nothing less than complete and total reform.” Reforms, he said, will include doubling the number of Tasers available to officers — from 700 to 1,400— as he works to restore public trust in Chicago’s 12,000-officer force and in his administration.

“Our police officers have a very difficult and dangerous job. They put their lives on the line so the rest of us can be safe. And like all of us, they are human and they make mistakes,” the mayor said. “Our job is to reduce the chances of mistakes.”

Emanuel pledged training to make police encounters with citizens “less confrontational and more conversational.” And he said “force can be the last option, not the first choice.”

“Just because you train that you can use force doesn’t mean you should,” he said. “And helping officers (make) that distinction — and the training that goes with it — is essential.”

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Rescue crews assist with evacuations in Midwest flooding

ST. LOUIS (AP) — As swollen rivers and streams pushed to heights not seen in nearly a quarter-century, officials in Missouri and Illinois helped residents get to higher ground Wednesday amid fears that already dire conditions could worsen as floodwaters began spilling over the federal levees protecting some communities and farmland.

In Eureka southwest of St. Louis, firefighters and their boats have been in high demand since Tuesday, accounting for roughly four dozen rescues of people in their homes, businesses or vehicles. Television news footage showed at least one home there drifting in the swollen river Wednesday, when firefighters rescued by boat a man and a dog as floodwaters lapped at the eaves of the house roof on which they’d been trapped for a night.

“Our crews are getting dispatched to another rescue now,” Scott Barthelmass, a Eureka Fire Protection District spokesman, said mid-afternoon Wednesday as the swollen Meramec River there was cresting. “I think you’re seeing people who are desperate or impatient, putting themselves in predicaments.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday that nine levees had been topped by water, although some of those earthen barriers were meant to protect farmland rather than populated areas so it wasn’t immediately clear how many homes were in jeopardy. Nearly a dozen other levees were considered at risk for “possible significant distress” but were holding as of Wednesday evening, the Army Corps said.

But people were moving out just in case, including the St. Louis suburb of Valley Park, where Mayor Michael Pennise ordered mandatory evacuations for 350 to 400 homes and dozens of businesses in the section of town near the fast-rising Meramec River.

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Apple agrees to pay $350 million in Italian tax case

ROME (AP) — Apple has agreed to pay Italy 318 million euros (about $350 million) in taxes for several past years, prosecutors said Wednesday, part of a broader European effort to make multinationals pay what they owe in each country where they do business.

Italy has already brought several cases against global technology companies that have headquarters in low-tax nations like Ireland to avoid paying higher taxes in other countries, like Italy. The practice, called profit-shifting, has come under attack from the European Union, which wants multinationals to pay tax where they earn their revenue, and not where they have their regional base.

The EU’s 28 states agreed in October to share details of tax deals they reach with big companies to make sure they are fair to other countries. The EU has already ordered Starbucks and Fiat to pay millions in back taxes to Luxembourg and the Netherlands, respectively.

Milan prosecutors on Wednesday confirmed a report in daily La Repubblica that Apple agreed to pay the sum for the years spanning 2008-2013. The prosecutors said Apple’s tax liabilities for the five successive years will hinge on an international ruling on such cases. They declined to give details.

They also declined to discuss how payment of back taxes might affect a criminal probe, conducted by the prosecutors, into suspected tax evasion by three Apple employees. La Repubblica said two of the employees are executives based in Italy while the third is based in Ireland.

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Banned driver dies after crashing into Secret Service car

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — An unlicensed driver trying to pass a car on a snowy New Hampshire road died after crashing head-on into a car carrying four Secret Service agents on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s protective detail, police said Wednesday.

The crash happened shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday in Wakefield, near the Maine state line.

The agents were in a Ford Taurus heading south on Route 16, Wakefield police said. A northbound Mercury Sable with three people inside crossed over a double yellow solid line and hit the agents’ Taurus, police said.

The Sable driver, 45-year-old Bruce Danforth, of Ossipee, died. Police said an autopsy was performed on him, and they were awaiting blood-analysis results, which would take weeks. Court records show Danforth had been charged seven times since 2010 with driving while his license was revoked or suspended, including two occasions when he was also charged with drug-related offenses. He had pleaded guilty to — or been found guilty of — the charges, was fined hundreds of dollars and spent some time in county jail. After his most recent arrest, on Jan. 4 of this year, Danforth was ordered to pay $620. At the time of Tuesday’s crash, the fine was unpaid and a hearing had been scheduled to consider a contempt charge.

A Secret Service spokeswoman said the agents had serious injuries that weren’t life-threatening. Their names weren’t released.

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New laws in 2016 show states are diverging on guns, voting

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Laws taking effect at the start of the new year show states diverging on some hot-button issues.

Restrictions on carrying guns will ease in Texas, for example, but will get tighter in California. It will be easier to register to vote in Oregon, but there will be another step to take at the polls in North Carolina.

The opposing directions in the states reflect a nation with increasingly polarized politics.

In the debate over gun control, both sides say their arguments are strengthened by a string of mass shootings this year. That includes the December attack at a county health department gathering in San Bernardino, California, when a couple who investigators say pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group killed 14 people.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a group backed by billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is seeking to be a counterweight to the National Rifle Association’s lobbying of state lawmakers. Both groups are expected to be active in legislatures in the coming year.

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Eagles CEO says coach following Kelly needs people skills

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — In the end, Chip Kelly created a poor culture and a beatable scheme.

A day after firing Chip Kelly, CEO Jeffrey Lurie made it clear he wants a coach who can relate to his players and everyone else in the building.

“You’ve got to open your heart to players and everybody you want to achieve peak performance,” Lurie said Wednesday. “I would call it a style of leadership that values information and all of the resources that are provided and at the same time values emotional intelligence. I think in today’s world, a combination of all those factors creates the best chance to succeed.”

Kelly didn’t have close relationships with many of his players, and former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and cornerback Brandon Boykin were critical of his personality after he traded them.

Lurie said he wants “someone who interacts and communicates very clearly with everyone he works with.”

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Online animals of the year: Cute faces and a rat’s resolve

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Animals can melt the human heart, tickle the funny bone or bring us to tears. And thanks to Instagram, YouTube and other online options, you can enjoy their antics simply by following, liking or pinning them.

Dr. Bonnie Beaver, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says two things make animal photos and videos so popular.

— Many animals have physical traits that subconsciously cause humans to nurture, like large, round heads and large eyes. Think E.T.

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— Many images show animals doing something unexpectedly clever, human-like or just plain cute — kittens trying to run up a slide, for example, she said.

“Some do both,” Beaver said, “like Garfield and Mickey Mouse.”