AP News in Brief 02-04-18

Police: Extreme-right gunman shoots 6 Africans in Italy

MILAN — An Italian gunman with extreme right-wing sympathies shot and wounded six African immigrants Saturday in a two-hour drive-by shooting spree, authorities said, terrorizing a small Italian city where a Nigerian man had been arrested days earlier in a teenager’s gruesome killing.

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Police photos showed the shooting suspect with a neo-Nazi tattoo prominently on his forehead as he sat in custody and an Italian flag tied around his neck as he was arrested in the central Italian city of Macerata,. Authorities identified him as Luca Traini, a 28-year-old Italian with no previous record.

Traini had run for town council on the anti-migrant Northern League’s list in a local election last year in Corridonia, the party confirmed, but its mayoral candidate lost the race. The news agency ANSA quoted friends of his as saying that Traini had previously been affiliated with Italian extremist parties like the neo-fascist Forza Nuova and CasaPound.

The shooting spree came days after the slaying of 18-year-old Pamela Mastropietro and amid a heated electoral campaign in Italy where anti-foreigner sentiment has become a key theme. Italy has struggled with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants in the last few years coming across the Mediterranean Sea in smugglers’ boats.

After the attack, Premier Paolo Gentiloni warned in Rome that “the state will be particularly severe against whoever thinks of feeding the spiral of violence.”

8 Turkish troops die in Syria; Russian pilot slain

BEIRUT — Turkey said eight of its troops were killed Saturday in Ankara’s military operation against a Syrian Kurdish militia, the deadliest day in the two-week-old offensive in the enclave of Afrin, while in another part of Syria, al-Qaida-linked militants downed a Russian fighter jet, then shot and killed the pilot.

In a statement late Saturday, the Turkish military said five soldiers were killed after their tank in Syria came under attack near Afrin. The soldiers could not be saved despite all attempts, it said.

Earlier in the day, three Turkish soldiers were reported killed in the Afrin offensive — one was killed in the area of the tank attack, another in northern Syria and the third on the Turkish side of the border in what Ankara said was an attack by Syrian Kurdish militiamen.

The total death toll for Turkish troops since the operation, codenamed Olive Branch, started on Jan. 20 now stands at 13.

Turkey launched the incursion into Afrin to rout the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the People’s Protection Units or YPG, which it considers to be a terrorist organization and an extension of Kurdish insurgents fighting within Turkey.

Abortion is a focus of early action in legislative sessions

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Republicans who control a majority of the nation’s statehouses are considering a wide range of abortion legislation that could test the government’s legal ability to restrict a woman’s right to terminate pregnancy.

The Mississippi House passed a bill Friday that would make the state the only one to ban all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. In Missouri, lawmakers heard testimony earlier in the week on a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

The Ohio House is expected to consider bills, already passed in the Senate, that would prohibit the most common type of procedure used to end pregnancies after 13 weeks and require that fetal remains be buried or cremated.

Abortion is a perennial hot button issue in statehouses across the country. Republican-controlled states have passed hundreds of bills since 2011 restricting access to the procedure while Democratic-led states have taken steps in the other direction.

The early weeks of this year’s state legislative sessions have seen a flurry of activity around the issue. It comes as activists on both sides say they expect the U.S. Supreme Court to soon consider a question that remains unclear: How far can states go in restricting abortion in the interest of preserving and promoting fetal life?

In drug crisis hotbed, hoping for action on Trump’s words

CINCINNATI — President Donald Trump heads to Ohio on Monday to make Cincinnati-area stops focusing on the new tax overhaul — though some in a state with one of the nation’s highest overdose rates would rather hear more about his plans for the drug crisis.

In Newtown, outside Cincinnati, Police Chief Tom Synan said he found Trump’s comments on opioids in his State of the Union address to be “much of the same. There are very convincing words and there’s yet to be very convincing actions.”

Synan, a law enforcement representative on the Cincinnati-based Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, wrote a column recently for The Cincinnati Enquirer calling for more urgency in the national response.

Trump’s declaration of a public health emergency in October, he wrote, hasn’t been backed by more federal funding.

“We need that help to allow us to get to the next level,” Synan said in an interview. “There are so many more things that could be done, so many more people we could help.”

Police: 5-year-old girl burned in voodoo ritual; 2 charged

EAST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. — Two sisters tied down and burned a 5-year-old girl, permanently disfiguring her, in a voodoo ritual meant to rid her of a demon causing her to misbehave, police said. The women also threatened to cut off the head of the girl’s 8-year-old brother with a machete, authorities said.

The boy said his sister was tied down on at least two occasions while the sisters blew fire over her face and cut her on the arm and in the collar area with a needle-like object, drawing blood, according to police. The girl said the women also poured over her eyes a substance that stung.

Peggy LaBossiere, 51, and Rachel Hilaire, 40, of East Bridgewater, denied injuring the girl and threatening the boy, the Brockton Enterprise reported . They pleaded not guilty on Jan. 29 to mayhem, assault and other charges. A public defender for the women didn’t return a call seeking comment on Saturday.

Police say the girl’s mother is a hair stylist of Haitian descent who has LaBossiere as a client and requested the ritual. She has not been charged but is receiving mental health treatment.

The sisters will be back in Brockton Superior Court on Wednesday for a hearing to determine whether they’re too dangerous to be released.

Uma Thurman levels accusations against Weinstein, Tarantino

NEW YORK — Actress Uma Thurman, in long-awaited remarks, accused disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of forcing himself on her sexually years ago in a London hotel room. Weinstein, through his attorney, acknowledged making an “awkward pass” but strongly denied any physical assault and suggested the possibility of legal action over her comments.

In a separate allegation in the same New York Times article on Saturday, Thurman also said “Kill Bill” director Quentin Tarantino during filming coerced her into driving a car that she believed to be faulty, resulting in injuries including a permanently damaged neck, a concussion and damage to her knees. A representative for Tarantino did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Thurman’s allegations against Weinstein, who has been accused of rape, assault or other sexual misconduct by scores of women, had been widely anticipated since she hinted late last year that she had a story to tell but wanted to wait until she was less angry. Her story came in an interview with Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

“I used the word ‘anger,’ but I was more worried about crying, to tell you the truth,” Thurman was quoted as saying. “I was not a groundbreaker on a story I knew to be true. So what you really saw was a person buying time.”

Thurman said that an early encounter with Weinstein in a Paris hotel room in the 1990s ended with him suddenly appearing in a bathrobe and leading her to a steam room but that she did not feel threatened. She said that the first “attack” — the word appears in quotes — happened later in London.

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Ryan tweets about a $1.50 paycheck boost, then deletes it

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan has highlighted on Twitter a school secretary benefiting from the Republican tax overhaul, then deleted the tweet after online criticism that he is cheering an increase of $1.50 a week.

The Associated Press reported on Thursday that changes in tax withholding were sparking bigger paychecks, citing as one example Julia Ketchum of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, whose check went up $1.50 a week.

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Ryan on Saturday posted a Tweet noting the secretary’s increase and linking to the AP story. He has posted several other examples of worker pay increases and bonuses since the overhaul, some as much as $1,000.

Ryan’s spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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