Posted: Apr 20, 2012 4:01 PM
Updated: Apr 21, 2012 4:01 AM
Experts say Zimmerman made smart move in questioning investigator
SANFORD, Fla. (AP) By questioning a state investigator on the witness stand during a routine bail hearing, George Zimmerman's defense attorney showed some of the weaknesses in prosecutors' claims that the neighborhood watch volunteer committed second-degree murder, legal experts say.
A judge ruled Friday that Zimmerman can be released on $150,000 bail while he awaits trial on murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin during a Feb. 26 confrontation in a Sanford, Fla. gated community. Zimmerman apologized to Martin's parents, who were in the courtroom for the bail hearing, in a surprise appearance on the witness stand. Zimmerman is pleading not guilty and claims self-defense.
"I am sorry for the loss of your son," said Zimmerman, marking the first time he has spoken in public about the confrontation with the unarmed black teen. "I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. I did not know if he was armed or not."
The apology came after Zimmerman's defense attorney, Mark O'Mara, questioned an investigator for the special prosecutor, sentence by sentence, about a probable cause affidavit the investigator signed outlining certain facts in the case.
Investigator Dale Gilbreath testified that he does not know whether Martin or Zimmerman threw the first punch and that there is no evidence to disprove Zimmerman's contention he was walking back to his vehicle when confronted by Martin. The affidavit says "Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued."
Reports show critical weaknesses in Obama administration's European missile defense plans
WASHINGTON (AP) One of President Barack Obama's signature defense programs, a missile defense shield designed to protect the United States and Europe from an Iranian missile attack, faces major delays, cost overruns and critical technological problems, according to two recent government reports.
The reports by the Defense Department and congressional investigators cast doubt on a program that is at the core of American plans to defend Europe and a sensitive political issue both domestically and in relations with Russia. They say missile interceptors are running into production glitches, the systems' radars are underpowered and the sensors cannot distinguish between warheads and other objects.
The first report, by the Defense Science Board, an advisory group to the Defense Department, was released late last year but has received little notice. While it concludes there are "no fundamental roadblocks" to the European system, it points out major problems while not saying how they can be fixed. Board members declined repeated requests for comment. Outside experts, including the Pentagon's former chief weapons tester, Philip Coyle, say the issues raised in the report would require substantial, costly changes if they can all be surmounted at all.
The second, by Congress' nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, was released Friday.
Some Republicans have seized on the reports, saying they back their view that the program was hastily designed to ease the concerns of Russia, which had strongly objected to previous plans by the Bush administration, with less regard to whether it would actually work. Ahead of the November election, Republicans are casting Obama as a weak leader, quick to capitulate to the demands of other nations.
IMF boosts resources by $430 billion to calm market fears over European debt crisis
WASHINGTON (AP) Finance ministers and central bank governors hope a more than $430 billion increase in resources of the International Monetary Fund will be enough to handle any fresh crisis in the eurozone.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde announced the new figure at the conclusion of discussions of the G-20 major economic powers Friday. She said that some countries, including Russia, India, China and Brazil, had made private pledges but did not want to issue public commitments until they had conferred with officials in their home capitals.
But she said when the public and private commitments were combined, the total raised would exceed $430 billion, nearly doubling the IMF's available resources to make loans to nations in trouble.
Lagarde called the fundraising a "huge effort" that would increase the current $485 billion available for loans to more than $1 trillion.
"We have the necessary tools in the toolbox and we will use this wisely," she told reporters at a news conference wrapping up discussions of the G-20, which includes traditional economic powers such as the United States and Germany and emerging powers such as China and Brazil.
Syrian activists say central city of Homs is calm as UN observer visit expected
BEIRUT (AP) Activists say fighting and government shelling has stopped in Syria's central city of Homs in advance of an expected visit by U.N. observers.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says Homs is peaceful for the first time in more than a week.
Salim Qabani, an activist based in the central province of Homs, said Saturday that troops are hiding armored vehicles. He says tanks were pulled off the streets and into a police base.
A U.N.-brokered cease-fire that technically went into effect last week has been steadily unraveling. Regime forces had shelled rebel-held neighborhoods in Homs and opposition fighters were reported to have ambushed government troops.
The Observatory said they had no reports of violence through most of Syria on Saturday.
Verbal lapses, delivering must-win states hard primary lessons for Romney challenging Obama
The pregame warm-up is over.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's urgent task now: Learn the lessons of a primary season peppered with tactical and communications errors that cost time and money while reinforcing doubts about him.
It's a must, even allies say, given that he now faces Democratic President Barack Obama's well-oiled machine, battle-tested and prepared to face the eventual Republican nominee.
At first glance during the primary, Romney's team appeared disciplined compared with his error-prone rivals. He also kept one eye on Obama the whole time.
Yet, Romney gave his primary rivals openings with a series of verbal gaffes that highlighted his vulnerabilities. And he let key states like South Carolina and Colorado slip away by failing to anticipate surging opponents. Unexpected losses in those states dragged out the primary season, preventing Romney from turning his attention to Obama in earnest until earlier this month, when chief GOP rival Rick Santorum dropped out.
Pakistan blocks head of airline from leaving the country after crash kills all 127 on board
ISLAMABAD (AP) Pakistan blocked the head of an airline whose jet crashed near the capital from leaving the country and ordered him into protective custody on Saturday as it began an investigation into its second major air disaster in less then two years.
The Bhoja Air passenger jet crashed Friday as it tried to land in a thunderstorm at Islamabad's main airport, killing all 127 people on board and reviving concerns about aviation safety in a country saddled by massive economic problems, an embattled government, and Islamist insurgency.
The small domestic airline, which only resumed operations last month after suspending them in 2001 due to financial difficulties, said after the crash that the weather was the cause of the accident.
Speaking at the scene of the disaster, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that Farooq Bhoja, head of Bhoja Air, had been put on the "exit control list," meaning he can't leave Pakistan. Such a ban is often put on someone suspected or implicated in a criminal case. He said Bhoja had been ordered into protective custody and a criminal investigation launched into the incident.
He later said that the airline "seems to be at fault as it had acquired a very old aircraft."
As the EU gets set to ease Myanmar sanctions, activists plead for the West to move slowly
BANGKOK (AP) The increasingly enthusiastic love affair between Myanmar and the West is about to heat up further with the European Union's expected announcement that it is easing sanctions on the Southeast Asian nation. But not everyone is caught up in the euphoria.
Many human rights groups are urging the West to move slowly as it re-engages with Myanmar, saying the country's partial return to democracy is not cause for celebration.
Myanmar's elected rulers today are the same men who just two years ago led a military government condemned as tyrannical by much of the world for jailing more than 2,000 political prisoners, conducting brutal counterinsurgency wars against ethnic minorities and failing to hand over power to a democratically elected government.
The United States and the European Union ostracized the junta with sanctions, barring much investment, blocking international financial transactions and rejecting imports from Myanmar all of which served to stunt economic development. A dodgy 2010 election giving the army and its allies about 85 percent of the seats in parliament promised more of the same.
But an unexpected reform campaign started last year by President Thein Sein formerly the junta's prime minister signaled a shift in the wind. It became a hurricane of change when the long-embattled pro-democracy party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi endorsed Thein Sein's reform campaign.
Gaza zoo turns to improvised taxidermy to keep deceased animals on exhibit
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) There is an afterlife for animals at the Khan Younis zoo in the impoverished Gaza Strip.
Animals who die in the dilapidated park return to be displayed as stuffed creatures, giving visitors the unusual zoo experience of petting a lion, tiger or crocodile. But because taxidermy in the largely isolated Palestinian territory is not advanced and expertise and materials are in short supply, the experience can be grim.
Flies swarm around some of the 10 animals that have been embalmed so far. The makeshift cages housing the exhibits fashioned from fencing salvaged from Jewish settlements that Israel dismantled in 2005 are littered with empty soda cans and other trash.
An emaciated-looking stuffed lion, its coat patchy and mangy, lies on an exhibit cobbled together from crates and shipping pallets. A monkey had missing limbs. A porcupine had a hole in its head.
The zoo's 65 live animals, which include ostriches, monkeys, turtles, deer, a llama, a lion and a tiger, don't fare much better. During a recent visit, children poked chocolate, potato chips and bread through the wire. There's no zookeeper on the premises. Gaza has no government body that oversees zoos, and medical treatment is done by consulting over the phone with zoo veterinarians in Egypt.
San Francisco eatery once said to have 'world's rudest waiter' closing
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Heartbroken customers lined up for meal at a closing San Francisco institution a 100-year-old Chinese restaurant once known for having "the world's rudest waiter." Diners of decades past say he would verbally abuse patrons, slam down dishes, and chastise complainers.
Sam Wo, a Chinatown hole-in-the-wall that typified the kind of ethnic eateries for which the city's culinary scene was lauded before it became a trendy haven for foodies, planned to serve its last customers early Saturday.
David Ho, a descendent of one of the restaurant's original owners, decided to shut down after officials demanded extensive health and safety upgrades.
On Friday, saddened patrons lined down the block to get a seat at one of the eight lunch tables and to mourn the loss of another San Francisco institution over bowls of won ton soup.
"I know change is good, but sometimes you want to hold onto the happy memories," said customer Darlene Lee, 71, who had been coming to the restaurant for 60 years and said its inexpensive fare was comfort food that reminded her of going home.
David Legwand scores 13 seconds into 3rd period, Predators edge Detroit 2-1 to win series 4-1
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Nashville Predators need measure themselves against the Detroit Red Wings no more.
David Legwand scored 13 seconds into the third period, and the Predators advanced to the Western Conference semifinals with a 2-1 victory over the Red Wings on Friday night.
The fourth-seeded Predators won the series 4-1, capping a season in which they finished ahead of their Central Division rival for the first time, and beat the Red Wings for the first time in three playoff series. Nashville made it even sweeter by handing the Red Wings their earliest postseason departure since a six-game, first-round loss to Edmonton in 2006.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said Detroit has been the gold standard for the Central Division and especially the Predators.
"We've grown to the point where we have great respect for the Detroit Red Wings, but we're not in awe of them," Trotz said. "That's the stepping stone that we've taken. Obviously, beating Detroit in the first round is a step in the right direction."