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World briefly for Jan. 8

POSTED: January 8, 2013 9:15 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's pick of Chuck Hagel to helm the Pentagon faces rough going in the Senate as a handful of Republicans quickly announced their opposition to a former GOP colleague, and several skeptical Democrats reserved judgment until the nominee explains his views on Israel and Iran.

The concerns about Hagel complicate his path to Senate confirmation but are not necessarily calamitous as the White House pushes for the first Vietnam War veteran to oversee a military emerging from two wars and staring at deep budget cuts.

Obama also tapped White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to head the CIA. Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, faces no major obstacles, but he is expected to be hit with questions about torture and administration leaks of secret information.

Moments after Obama announced his selection of Hagel and called him "the leader that our troops deserve," some Senate Republicans voiced opposition to the former Nebraska lawmaker who spent 12 years in the Senate.

"Given Chuck Hagel's statements and actions on a nuclear Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, I think his confirmation would send exactly the wrong message to our allies and enemies alike," Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said in a statement. "Israel, our strongest ally in the region, is dealing with a lot of threat and uncertainty right now; Hagel would make that even worse."

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Families of Colo. theater shooting victims listen as police describe trying to save wounded

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — The officers struggled to hold back the tears as they recalled the Colorado theater shooting: discovering a 6-year-old girl without a pulse, trying to keep a wounded man from jumping out of a moving police car to go back for his 7-year-old daughter, screaming at a gunshot victim not to die.

"After I saw what I saw in the theater — horrific — I didn't want anyone else to die," said Officer Justin Grizzle, who ferried the wounded to the hospital.

A bearded, disheveled James Holmes, the man accused of going on the deadly rampage, didn't appear to show any emotion as Grizzle and the other officers testified Monday in a packed courtroom as survivors and families of those who died watched quietly. At one point, a woman buried her head in her hands when an officer recalled finding the 6-year-old girl.

"He's heartless. He really is. He has no emotion. He has no feeling. I don't know anybody can live that way," Sam Soudani said of the gunman afterward. His 23-year-old daughter survived after being hit by shrapnel from an explosive device at the theater.

On the first day of a hearing that will determine whether there's enough evidence to put Holmes on trial, the testimony brought back the raw emotions from the days following the July 20 attack at the suburban Denver theater that left 12 people dead and dozens wounded.

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Wildfires rage across Australia amid blistering heat; 100 still missing after Tasmania fire

COOMA, Australia (AP) — Firefighters battled scores of wildfires raging across southeast Australia on Tuesday as authorities evacuated national parks and warned that blistering temperatures and high winds had led to "catastrophic" conditions in some areas.

No deaths had been reported, although officials in Tasmania were still trying to find around 100 residents who have been missing since a fire tore through the small town of Dunalley, east of the state capital of Hobart, last week, destroying around 90 homes. On Tuesday, police said no bodies were found during preliminary checks of the ruined houses.

"We are shaping up for one of the worst fire danger days on record," New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said. "You don't get conditions worse than this. We are at the catastrophic level and clearly in those areas leaving early is your safest option."

Catastrophic threat level is the most severe rating applicable.

Wildfires have razed 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of forests and farmland across southern Tasmania since Friday. In New South Wales, the country's most populous state, the fires had burned through more than 26,000 hectares (64,000 acres) of land.

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Authorities investigating mysterious cyanide death of Chicago man who won $425K in lottery

CHICAGO (AP) — Urooj Khan had returned to Chicago from the hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia inspired to lead a better life and had sworn off buying lottery tickets — except just this once.

To his astonishment, the scratch-off ticket was a $1 million winner. But just as he was about to collect his money, Khan died suddenly. There were no signs of trauma and nothing suspicious, and the Cook County Medical Examiner's office said he died July 20 of natural causes.

Now, authorities have determined that Khan, 46, ingested a lethal dose of cyanide. The finding, spurred by a relative's pleas for an expanded screening, has triggered a homicide investigation, the Chicago Police Department said Monday.

"It's pretty unusual," said Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina, commenting on the rarity of cyanide poisonings. "I've had one, maybe two cases out of 4,500 autopsies I've done."

Khan, who owned a number of dry cleaners, stopped in at the convenience store near his home in the West Rogers Park neighborhood on the city's North Side in the summer and bought a ticket for an instant lottery game.

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Fresh idea: Texas company says microwave technology keeps packaged bread mold-free for 60 days

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Attention, bread shoppers: A Texas company could have the answer to some consumers' unwelcome discovery that just-purchased loaves contain mold.

MicroZap Inc. claims its technology allows bread to stay mold-free for 60 days. The bread is bombarded with microwaves for about 10 seconds, which kills the mold spores, said chief executive officer Don Stull said.

The process could eliminate bakers' need for preservatives and ingredients used to mask preservatives' flavor, as well as reduce food waste and increase bread's shelf life, he said.

Researchers at Texas Tech University also see using the technology in bread made in developing countries, where there are fewer food safety standards and spoilage is a problem.

"It could help us provide an abundant food source for those in need," said Mindy Brashear, director of the Lubbock university's Center for Food Industry Excellence. The prospect of helping people in developing countries is what motivated the microbiology professor to help develop the technology over the last eight years.

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Lawyer says Tunisian suspect in attack on US consulate in Libya freed for lack of evidence

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — The only suspect in custody over the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi has been conditionally released by Tunisian authorities due to lack of evidence, his lawyer said Tuesday.

The release of Ali Harzi, a Tunisian, represents a blow to the investigation of the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. The investigation in Libya itself has been stalled due to the weak power of the central government in the face of the powerful militias, some of whom may have been involved in the attack.

Harzi's lawyer Anwar Oued-Ali said his client was freed Monday night but has to remain in the greater Tunis area in case the court needs him.

Harzi had previously been interrogated by FBI officials in the presence of a Tunisian judge in December. He was originally detained in Turkey and in October was extradited to Tunisia, where authorities had said he was "strongly suspected" of being involved in the attack.

His lawyer had always maintained there was no evidence linking him to the attack.

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2nd inquest into death of Amy Winehouse being held after coroner deemed unqualified

LONDON (AP) — A British court is holding a second inquest into the death of Amy Winehouse after the coroner who ruled the singer had drunk herself to death was found to lack the proper qualifications.

The soul singer was found dead at her London home in July 2011 at the age of 27. An inquest later that year found that the star had died from accidental alcohol poisoning.

The coroner later resigned after her qualifications were questioned. She had been hired by her husband, the senior coroner for inner north London. But she had not been a registered lawyer in Britain for five years as required.

The family has said Tuesday's hearing at St. Pancras Coroner's Court is expected to reach the same conclusion about the cause of death.

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Thanks to wild dad, jaguar cubs in Wis. bring new genes to endangered species' zoo population

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Two jaguar cubs are providing more than just cooing fans for Milwaukee's zoo. The spotted brothers are introducing new genes to the endangered species' captive population because unlike most zoo babies, their father was born in the wild.

The blue-eyed cubs, born Nov. 13, don't officially have names just yet, but keepers at the Milwaukee County Zoo are calling them "Gaps" and "Dots," due to the markings on their heads.

Stacey Johnson, coordinator of the jaguar species survival plan for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, said it is rare for zoos' reproductive programs to have access to animals born in the wild.

"They are bringing in a new inflow of genes that will help sustain the population over next 100 years," Johnson said.

He also noted that the cubs — the first born at the zoo since 1975 — are also beneficial because female jaguars currently outnumber males in zoos in North America.

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David Bowie readies 1st album in 10 years; releases new single on 66th birthday

NEW YORK (AP) — David Bowie is celebrating his birthday by releasing new music.

The English singer announced Tuesday, his 66th birthday, that he has released his first song in 10 years titled "Where Are We Now?"

A new album, "The Next Day," will be out March 11 and 12 in the United Kingdom and the United States, respectively.

The slow groove was released on iTunes and in 119 countries. It was produced by longtime collaborator Tony Visconti.

Bowie's last album was 2003's "Reality." The fashion forward singer debuted in the 1960s, releasing multiple successful albums with sounds that range from rock to pop to glam rock to soul and funk.

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Roll, Tide, Roll: Alabama bashes Irish 42-14 for 2nd straight BCS title, full-fledged dynasty

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Barely taking time to celebrate their latest national championship, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide are ready to get back to work.

That's how they make it look so easy.

In what must be an increasingly frustrating scene for the rest of college football, another season ended with Saban and his players frolicking in the middle of a confetti-strewn field. Eddie Lacy ran all over Notre Dame, AJ McCarron turned in another dazzling performance through the air, and the Tide defense shut down the Fighting Irish until it was no longer in doubt.

The result was a 42-14 blowout in the BCS title game Monday night, not only making Alabama a back-to-back champion, but a full-fledged dynasty with three crowns in four years.

This one was especially satisfying to Saban.

 

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