AP News in Brief 07-07-19

  • Bottles and debris cover the floor of a liquor store Saturday as a result from the earthquake in Ridgecrest, Calif., on Friday. (AP Photo/APTN)

Mystery of NSA leak lingers as stolen document case winds up

WASHINGTON — Federal agents descended on the suburban Maryland house with the flash and bang of a stun grenade, blocked off the street and spent hours questioning the homeowner about a theft of government documents that prosecutors would later describe as “breathtaking” in its scale.

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The suspect, Harold Martin, was a contractor for the National Security Agency. His arrest followed news of a devastating disclosure of government hacking tools by a mysterious internet group calling itself the Shadow Brokers. It seemed to some that the United States might have found another Edward Snowden, who also had been a contractor for the agency.

“You’re a bad man. There’s no way around that,” one law enforcement official conducting the raid told Martin, court papers say. “You’re a bad man.”

Later this month, about three years after that raid, the case against Martin is scheduled to be resolved in Baltimore’s federal court. But the identity of the Shadow Brokers, and whoever was responsible for a leak with extraordinary national security implications, will remain a public mystery even as the case concludes.

Authorities have established that Martin walked off with thousands of pages of secret documents over a two-decade career in national security, most recently with the NSA, whose headquarters is about 15 miles from his home in Glen Burnie, Maryland. He pleaded guilty to a single count of willful retention of national defense information and faces a nine-year prison sentence under a plea deal.

Months of aftershocks could follow big California earthquake

RIDGECREST, Calif. — Officials in Southern California expressed relief Saturday that damage and injuries weren’t worse after the largest earthquake the region has seen in nearly 20 years, while voicing concerns about the possibility of major aftershocks in the days and even months to come.

No fatalities or major injuries were reported after Friday night’s 7.1-magnitude earthquake, which jolted an area from Sacramento to Mexico and prompted the evacuation of the Navy’s largest single landholding, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in the Mojave Desert.

The quake struck at 8:19 p.m. Friday and was centered 11 miles from Ridgecrest, the same area of the desert where a 6.4-magnitude temblor hit just a day earlier. It left behind cracked and burning buildings, broken roads, obstructed railroad tracks and leaking water and gas lines.

The light damage was largely due to the remoteness of the area where the earthquake occurred, but Gov. Gavin Newsom cautioned after touring Ridgecrest that “it’s deceiving, earthquake damage. You don’t notice it at first.”

Newsom estimated more than $100 million in economic damages and said President Donald Trump called him to offer federal support in the rebuilding effort.

Biden says he was wrong in comments about segregationists

SUMTER, S.C. — Former Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday apologized for recent comments about working with segregationist senators in his early days in the U.S. Senate, saying he understands now his remarks could have been offensive to some.

“Was I wrong a few weeks ago?” Biden asked a mostly black audience of several hundred in Sumter during the first day of a weekend visit to South Carolina. “Yes, I was. I regret it, and I’m sorry for any of the pain of misconception that caused anybody.”

Biden’s comments came as he and rival presidential candidate Kamala Harris were set to circle each other while campaigning Sunday in South Carolina, the first Southern state to vote in next year’s primary and a crucial proving ground for candidates seeking support of black Democrats. Biden defended his record on racial issues and reminded voters of his ties to former President Barack Obama, whose popularity in South Carolina remains high.

The former vice president and the California senator probably will be pressed on their tense debate exchange over race and federally mandated school busing. Though the issue is not at the forefront of the 2020 primary, it could resonate in a state with a complicated history with race and segregation.

Without naming Harris, Biden on Saturday referenced what he characterized as expected attacks from other campaigns eager to take him on.

From wire sources

Experts warn of climate change’s impact on Chesapeake Bay

CONOWINGO, Md. — When the Conowingo Dam opened to fanfare nearly a century ago, the massive wall of concrete and steel began its job of harnessing water power in northern Maryland. It also quietly provided a side benefit: trapping sediment and silt before it could flow miles downstream and pollute the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary.

The old hydroelectric dam spanning the lower Susquehanna River is still producing power, but its days of effectively trapping sediment in a 14-mile (22.5-kilometer) long reservoir behind its walls are over. Behind the 94-foot (29-meter) high barrier lies a massive inventory of coal-black muck — some 200 million tons (181 million metric tons) of pollutants picked up over decades from farmlands, industrial zones and towns.

How big a threat this sediment stockpile poses to the Chesapeake Bay or whether anything can even be done about it depends on who one talks to. With Maryland pushing to curb pollution in dam discharges, the issue has become a political football as Conowingo’s operator seeks to renew its federal license to operate the dam for 46 more years after its old license expired.

And as negotiations drag on, the lack of agreement about curbing runoff pollutants following the wettest year on record imperils hard-won gains in restoring the Chesapeake Bay.

The iconic estuary famed for its blue crabs and oysters has been gradually rebounding under a federal cleanup program launched in 1983 that put an end to unbridled pollution. But the 200-mile (325-kilometer) long bay is increasingly being ravaged by runoff-triggering downpours, including record-setting rainfall in 2018 and this year’s soggy spring.

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‘Like the world was ending’: Shopping plaza blast injures 21

PLANTATION, Fla. — A vacant pizza restaurant exploded Saturday in a thundering roar at a South Florida shopping plaza, injuring more than 20 people as large chunks of concrete flew through the air.

The blast flung debris widely along a busy road in Plantation, west of Fort Lauderdale. The restaurant was destroyed, and nearby businesses and cars were damaged. Though firefighters found ruptured gas lines afterward, authorities said it was too early to determine a cause.

“We thought it was thunder at first, and then we felt the building shake and things started falling. I looked outside and it was almost like the world was ending,” said Alex Carver, a worker at a deli across the street from the explosion. “It was nuts, man. It was crazy.”

The explosion hurled large pieces of concrete up to 50 yards (45 meters) away and sent pieces of metal scattering as far as 100 yards (90 meters) across the street. Carver said two of his co-workers’ cars were destroyed.

At least 21 people were injured though none of the injuries was life-threatening, Police Sgt. Jesica Ryan said.

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Nominee to lead FAA faces questions about tenure at Delta

The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into whether Delta Air Lines violated FAA rules about promoting safety at a time when President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the agency was in charge of Delta’s flight operations.

The FAA investigation grew out of allegations by a Delta pilot that the airline retaliated against her for raising safety concerns. The Associated Press obtained a copy of an FAA letter sent to the pilot’s attorney detailing the investigation. The FAA declined to comment on the probe.

Trump’s nominee, Stephen Dickson, is under growing criticism from Senate Democrats over his initial failure to disclose his involvement in the case of the whistle-blowing pilot, who was grounded a few weeks after she raised safety issues to Dickson and other Delta executives.

Dickson authorized grounding the pilot for a psychiatric evaluation. Outside doctors later cleared her, and she has since returned to flying at Delta.

Dickson testified before the Senate Commerce Committee in May, and the committee is scheduled to vote on his nomination Wednesday. The FAA has been without a permanent administrator since January 2018.

Man arrested in Oregon in death of original Mouseketeer

MEDFORD, Ore. — Authorities in Oregon have arrested a man in the death of an original member of Disney’s “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

Daniel James Burda, 36, was taken into custody Friday on suspicion of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, abuse of a corpse, criminal mistreatment and identity theft in the death of Dennis Day, Oregon State Police said.

Burda was being held in Jackson County Jail, where records show he had been booked on June 26 for violating probation on a previous robbery charge.

It was unclear if he has an attorney.

Oregon State Police Captain Timothy R. Fox said Burda did jobs around the house for Day and his husband. Police declined to provide more details about Burda’s connection to Day, though neighbors say Burda had lived with the elderly couple at their home in southern Oregon.

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Thousands of motorcyclists ride in honor of 7 bikers killed

LACONIA, N.H. — Thousands of motorcyclists, waved on by bystanders with American flags, rode through New Hampshire on Saturday to the site where seven bikers were killed in a collision with a truck last month.

More than 3,000 bikers, some from as far away as California and Florida, participated in the 90-mile (145-kilometer) tribute trip from Laconia to the somber crash site in Randolph, where a memorial of flags and color guard stood. A memorial service was held in a field just beyond the crash site.

“This is what happens when good people die,” said Manny Ribeiro, president of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, to which the victims of the crash belonged. He didn’t attend the ride, saying it was “too soon” for him to be at the crash site but said the event and turnout was “just amazing.”

The Jarheads is a New England motorcycle club that includes Marines and their spouses. On Saturday, the crowd of bikers said a prayer and sang the Marines’ Hymn before heading out from Laconia, according to organizers.

The seven bikers were killed last month when a pickup truck hauling a flatbed trailer crashed into the group. The pickup driver, Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide and remains behind bars.

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Seized North Korean ship sought for American student’s death

NEW YORK — The parents of Otto Warmbier have filed a claim for a seized North Korean cargo ship in a bid to collect a multimillion-dollar judgment in the American college student’s death.

Attorneys for the Warmbiers said in a court filing Wednesday they have a right to the assets after North Korea failed to respond to their wrongful death claim.

The Warmbiers say their son was tortured after being convicted of trying to steal a propaganda poster and imprisoned for months.

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He died days after being returned to the U.S. in a vegetative state in 2017. A U.S. judge has ordered North Korea to pay more than $500 million in the Warmbiers’ wrongful death suit.

North Korea has denied mistreating Warmbier.

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