AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EDT

5/5/2015 5:00 AM
By Associated Press

Accused gunman in Texas shooting had been target of FBI probe but faced only minor charge

WASHINGTON (AP) — In 2010, authorities arrested Elton Simpson, one of the two suspected gunmen in a weekend shooting outside a contest in Texas featuring cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

At the time, the young man from Phoenix was the target of a terror investigation that had begun some four years earlier. But despite an investigation that involved more than 1,500 hours of recorded conversations, including Simpson's discussions about fighting nonbelievers for Allah and plans to link up with "brothers" in Somalia, the government prosecuted him on only one minor charge — lying to a federal agent. He faced three years of probation and $600 in fines and court fees.

Then, on Sunday, two men whom authorities identified as Simpson and Nadir Soofi opened fire in the Dallas suburb of Garland on an unarmed security officer stationed outside the cartoon contest. The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation by name.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack. An audio statement Tuesday on the extremist group's Al Bayan radio station says "two soldiers of the caliphate" carried out Sunday's attack. It did not provide details and it was unclear whether the group was opportunistically claiming the attack as its own.

The deliberately provocative contest had been expected to draw outrage from the Muslim community. According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad — even a respectful one — is considered blasphemous, and drawings similar to those featured at the Texas event have sparked violence around the world.

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John Kerry makes unannounced trip to Somalia; 1st US secretary of state ever to visit country

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced trip to Somalia Tuesday in a show of solidarity with a government trying to defeat al-Qaida-allied militants and end decades of war in the African country. He is first top U.S. diplomat ever to visit Somalia.

Kerry arrived at Mogadishu's airport shortly before noon local time, greeted by Somalia's president and prime minister on the tarmac. He immediately entered a series of planned meetings that include both of them along with regional leaders and civil society groups.

"I'm glad to be here," Kerry said.

"This is a great moment for us. Thank you for the time to be with us," President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said as they sat down together.

The trip was made under tight security conditions. Somalia's government only found out a day ago that Kerry would join the State Department's top Africa official, Linda Greenfield-Thomas, on the voyage. And the fact that he was only dipping his toe in Somalia, and not venturing past the airport, highlighted just how dangerous and instable the country remains.

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10 Things to Know for Today

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

1. PORTRAITS OF TEXAS GUNMEN EMERGE

One of the suspects had been on the FBI radar for years for possible terror ties — but authorities say they had no indication he was plotting an attack.

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After Freddie Gray, some say Baltimore's police won't change without direct federal oversight

BALTIMORE (AP) — Months before Freddie Gray died of the broken neck he suffered during what Baltimore's top prosecutor called an illegal arrest, the city's mayor and police commissioner said the department needed reform and asked the Justice Department for help reviewing officer misconduct.

Now that Gray is buried, six officers are charged in his death and an uneasy calm has returned to the streets, critics are wondering whether city leaders are capable of implementing the change the city needs without the direct, intensive oversight that comes with a full-fledged civil rights investigation resulting in a federal consent decree.

Democratic Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has already pushed back against this possibility, saying it would deprive Baltimore's leaders from having a say in fighting crime in one of the nation's most violent major cities, with more than 200 homicides a year.

"Nobody wants the Department of Justice to come and take over our city," she said last week.

Baltimore's leaders should welcome federal oversight, because it's doubtful any police department can fix itself from within, said Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of California-Irvine School of Law.

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APNewsBreak: Obama selects Marine general as Joint Chiefs chairman; led Afghan war effort

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is choosing a widely respected, combat-hardened commander who led the Afghanistan war coalition during a key transitional period during 2013-14 as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

U.S. officials say he is nominating Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. to the post to succeed Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, who will have served four years as chairman.

Obama plans to make the announcement at the White House Tuesday, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly ahead of the announcement. Dunford is expected to be easily confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Dunford's service as the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps will be cut short after he began that job last October. But the rapid promotion is one of several that have marked Dunford's fast-tracked military career, which saw him leap from a one-star general to four stars in about three years.

Officials also said Obama is tapping Gen. Paul J. Selva, a top Air Force officer and pilot, to serve as vice chairman. Selva, who has clocked more than 3,100 hours piloting transport and refueling aircraft, is currently the head of U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

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Getting to know you: British voters start seeing a new Ed Miliband

LONDON (AP) — It was an unexpected moment on the campaign trail.

Labour leader Ed Miliband had stopped his campaign bus in the northwest England city of Chester when he was mobbed by a bachelorette party waving iPhones and chanting "Selfie! Selfie!" Miliband, often depicted as a geek, offered a few weak high-fives, posed uncomfortably with the women in pink sashes draped over their dresses and then hurried back onto the bus.

Twitter lit up with Labour supporters sharing video of their man and his adoring fans.

"It worked in quite a good way for him," said Tom Mludzinski, head of political polling at the ComRes polling agency. "People wanted to be seen with him."

Ed Miliband is nerdy. Awkward. Shy. But those traits may not stop him from becoming Britain's next prime minister.

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Making second presidential run, Huckabee to pitch himself as culturally conservative populist

HOPE, Ark. (AP) — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is preparing another bid for the Republican presidential nomination, eight years after his first efforts to expand on the support of evangelical Christians helped him win eight states in the 2008 primaries.

The ordained Baptist minister turned politician returns Tuesday to his hometown of Hope, Arkansas — the same small town where former President Bill Clinton was born — to make official what the local newspaper called "the worst kept secret" in the state.

In a strategy aimed at working-class cultural conservatives, Huckabee and his aides say his second run would pitch the candidate as an economic populist and foreign affairs hawk who holds deeply conservative views on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

Huckabee, 59, also plans to pitch that he is the best Republican to take on Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination who spent more than a decade as first lady of Arkansas. In a recent campaign video, Huckabee argued that in his more than 10 years as governor, he took on Democrats in "Bill Clinton's Arkansas" after candidate Bill Clinton won election to the White House in 1992.

"Every day in my life in politics was a fight," Huckabee says in the video, released as a preview of his Tuesday announcement. "But any drunken redneck can walk into a bar and start a fight. A leader only starts a fight he's prepared to finish."

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Nepali police dig through mountain of mud to recover bodies of villagers, trekkers

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Rescuers were digging Tuesday through thousands of tons of earth from a quake-triggered mudslide in Nepal that wiped out an entire village along a popular Himalayan trekking route and killed at least 60 people.

Nine of the victims recovered in the Langtang Valley since the April 25 earthquake and mudslide were foreign trekkers, said Gautam Rimal, the top government official in the Rasuwa district. Villagers say as many as 200 people could have been killed.

The valley and its little village of Langtang are about 60 kilometers (35 miles) north of Nepal's capital, Kathmandu. It was a popular stop for trekkers because of its scenic views of the Himalayas.

"The entire village was wiped out by the mudslide. There were some 60 houses there, but they were all buried under rubble. It will be impossible to recover all the bodies," Rimal said.

The village is now about a two-day hike from the nearest town because the landslide has blocked area roads. While helicopters allow easy access, they remain in short supply because of aid missions across the quake-affected parts of Nepal.

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Afghan poppy farmers say new seeds will boost country's opium output, already world's largest

ZHARI, Afghanistan (AP) — It's the cash crop of the Taliban and the scourge of Afghanistan — the country's intractable opium cultivation. This year, many Afghan poppy farmers are expecting a windfall as they get ready to harvest opium from a new variety of poppy seeds said to boost yield of the resin that produces heroin.

The plants grow bigger, faster, use less water than seeds they've used before, and give up to double the amount of opium, they say.

No one seems to know where the seeds originate from. The farmers of Kandahar and Helmand provinces, where most of Afghanistan's poppies are grown, say they were hand-delivered for planting early this year by the same men who collect the opium after each harvest, and who also provide them with tools, fertilizer, farming advice — and the much needed cash advance.

Afghanistan's poppy harvest, which accounts for most of the world's heroin, is worth an estimated $3 billion a year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Production hit a record high in 2014, up 17 percent compared to the year before, as opium and the drugs trade continued to undermine security, rule of law and development, while funding both organized crime and the Taliban — often one and the same.

The trend is expected to continue in 2015, in part thanks to the new poppy seeds, according to officials tasked with overseeing the eradication of poppy crops.

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Obama jokes about a quieter future with retiring 'Late Show' host Letterman

NEW YORK (AP) — President Barack Obama is envisioning a future of playing dominoes with retiree David Letterman.

Obama joked about their quieter futures during his eighth "Late Show" appearance Monday, saying Americans have grown up with the 33-year veteran comedian.

"After a tough day at the office or coming home from work, knowing that you've been there to give us a little bit of joy and a little bit of laughter, it has meant so much," Obama said. "You're part of all of us. You've given us a great gift and we love you."

Letterman is filling his CBS show with prominent guests in the lead-up to his final show May 20.

In honor of Obama's appearance, Letterman listed "Top 10 Questions Dumb Guys Ask the President," which included "Will you be a guest on one of my last shows?" and "Will you show us your birth certificate?" Number 1, in honor of the recent unauthorized landing on the Capitol lawn: "When will you return my gyrocopter?"


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5/28/2015 | Last Updated: 6:15 PM