- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

Gay marriage comes to Alabama over chief justice’s objections; ‘unlawful federal authority’

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama’s chief justice built his career on defiance: In 2003, Roy Moore was forced from the bench for disobeying a federal court order to remove a boulder-size Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse.

On Monday, as Alabama became the 37th state where gays can legally wed, Moore took a defiant stand again, employing the kind of states’ rights language used during the Civil War era and again during the civil rights movement.

He argued that a federal judge’s Jan. 23 ruling striking down the Bible Belt state’s gay-marriage ban was an illegal intrusion on Alabama’s sovereignty. And he demanded the state’s probate judges refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“It’s my duty to speak up when I see the jurisdiction of our courts being intruded by unlawful federal authority,” the 67-year-old Republican chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court said in an interview Monday.

Gay marriage arrived in the Deep South state of Alabama to a mixture of joy, calls for defiance and confusion, as some probate judges indicated they were uncertain whether to issue the licenses after Moore’s directive.


Obama, Merkel rally behind diplomatic effort to end Ukraine conflict, diverge on sending arms

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel rallied behind efforts to reach a long-shot diplomatic resolution to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine Monday, but they offered no clear path for how the West would proceed if talks this week fail.

During a joint White House news conference, Obama dangled the prospect that the U.S. could for the first time send anti-tank weapons and other defensive arms to Ukraine. While no decision has been made, the president said he had ordered his team to consider “whether there are additional things we can do to help Ukraine bolster its defenses in the face of Russian aggression.”

Merkel staunchly opposes arming Ukraine’s beleaguered military. The German chancellor, who has perhaps the most productive relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, made clear she had not given up on the possibility that diplomatic negotiations could produce an elusive peace plan.

“It has always proved to be right to try again and again to sort such a conflict,” Merkel said through a translator.

Later Monday, during a joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa, Merkel reiterated, “I hope that we shall be able to solve this conflict by diplomatic means because I think by military means it cannot be solved.”


10 Things to Know for Tuesday

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


Many believe that the Supreme Court, in refusing to block same-sex unions in Alabama, is signaling that it intends to OK gay marriage nationwide.


Drew Peterson charged with plotting to kill prosecutor who won conviction in ex-wife’s death

CHICAGO (AP) - Drew Peterson, the former suburban Chicago police officer convicted of killing his third wife and suspected in the disappearance of his fourth, has been charged with trying to hire someone to kill the prosecutor who helped put him in state prison, authorities announced Monday.

Peterson appeared in court on charges that between September 2013 and December 2014, while behind bars, he solicited a person to find someone he could pay to kill Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. Peterson did not enter a plea.

Peterson, 61, has been in prison since he was convicted in 2012 of first-degree murder in the 2004 bathtub drowning of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Savio’s death initially was ruled an accident, but after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in 2007, Savio’s body was exhumed and her death was ruled a homicide.

Glasgow’s office charged Drew Peterson with murder and in 2012 the former Bolingbrook police sergeant was convicted and sentenced to 38 years in state prison.

The latest complaint was filed by both the Illinois attorney general’s office and the prosecutor in Randolph County - the location of Menard Correctional Center, where Peterson is serving his sentence. In the two-page complaint, Peterson is charged with solicitation of murder for hire and one count of solicitation of murder, both felonies carrying a maximum sentence of at least 30 years in prison.


And the snow will go on: New England digs out from another storm, reaches record accumulations

BOSTON (AP) - More than 2 feet of fresh snow piled up in parts of New England on Monday, breaking records set during the Blizzard of 1978 and testing the patience of officials and commuters as forecasters warned of more winter misery later in the week.

The latest onslaught forced the cancellations of hundreds of flights, tested transit systems and tempers and collapsed roofs straining beneath the weight of 5 feet or more of snow in less than two weeks.

“It’s awful. I’m done with it. It’s ridiculous,” said Priscilla Medina, a sandwich shop worker in Westborough, Massachusetts, suffering from a nasty case of snow fatigue.

Here’s the latest on the winter that just won’t quit:



Ohio girl, 11, charged with murder in beating death of 2-month-old staying with her mom

CLEVELAND (AP) - An 11-year-old suburban girl has been charged with murder in the beating death of a 2-month-old who was staying overnight with her and her mother to give the baby’s mom a break.

The 11-year-old, her mother and the baby girl, Zuri Whitehead, were on a couch downstairs when the mother fell asleep at about 3 a.m. Friday, Wickliffe police Chief Randy Ice said at a news conference Monday. The mother was awakened less than an hour later by her daughter, who was holding the badly injured infant. Ice said the 11-year-old took the infant upstairs. When she returned downstairs, the infant was bleeding and her head was badly swollen, he said.

The 11-year-old’s mother immediately called 911, Ice said. Zuri was flown to a children’s trauma center in Cleveland, where she died.

The mother of the 11-year-old and Zuri’s mother, Trina Whitehead, have known each other for five or six years but aren’t related, Ice said. Trina Whitehead has three other children and had the girl’s mother keep Zuri, of Cleveland, overnight to give her a breather.

The Associated Press is not naming the 11-year-old girl or her mother because of her age.


Bank accounts, credit cards aside: forms you send your health insurer may be at biggest risk

Everyone worries about stolen credit cards or hacked bank accounts, but just visiting the doctor may put you at greater risk for identity fraud.

Those medical forms you give the receptionist and send to your health insurer provide fertile ground for criminals looking to steal your identity, since health care businesses can lag far behind banks and credit card companies in protecting sensitive information. The names, birthdates and - most importantly - Social Security numbers detailed on those forms can help hackers open fake credit lines, file false tax returns and create fake medical records.

“It’s an entire profile of who you are,” said Cynthia Larose, chair of the privacy and security practice at the law firm Mintz Levin in Boston. “It essentially allows someone to become you.”

Social Security numbers were created to track the earnings history of workers in order to determine government benefits. Now, health care companies are, in some cases, required to collect the numbers by government agencies. They also use them because they are unique to every individual and more universal than other forms of identification like driver’s licenses, said Dr. Ross Koppel, a University of Pennsylvania professor who researches health care information technology.

But once someone creates a stolen identity with a Social Security number, it can be hard to fix the damage. A person can call a bank to shut down a stolen credit card, but it’s not as easy of a process when it comes to Social Security numbers.


Debate brews over whether NBC’s Brian Williams can survive controversy

NEW YORK (AP) - A vigorous debate over Brian Williams’ future is brewing as “NBC Nightly News” aired Monday without the decade-long anchor.

Some critics suggest that Williams, who apologized last week for falsely claiming that he was in a helicopter that had been hit by a grenade while in Iraq in 2003, should be fired. Others wonder if commerce will win out, since Williams has kept “Nightly News” at the top of the ratings while much of his news division crumbled around him. How much are the years of good work worth?

“This is one of the toughest calls that I’ve ever seen,” said Paul Levinson, professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University. “On the one hand, the public is right to expect nothing but the truth from our reporters and our news anchors.”

Williams announced Saturday he was stepping away from the show for a few days. NBC News, which launched an internal probe, hasn’t given a timetable for how long its look into Williams’ statements, coordinated by the division’s investigative editor Richard Esposito, will take or if its report will be made public.

Williams’ sub, Lester Holt, told viewers midway through Monday’s broadcast that Williams had taken himself off the air because questions have been raised about how he recalled several stories. Holt did not specify what the stories or questions were.


Not lost in space: Museum announces previously unknown souvenirs from 1969 moon mission

NEW YORK (AP) - More than four decades after the Apollo 11 moon landing, a cloth bag full of souvenirs brought back by astronaut Neil Armstrong has come to light.

Among the trove: a 16 mm movie camera from inside the lunar module that filmed its descent to the moon and Armstrong’s first steps on the lunar surface in 1969.

That camera “took one of the most significant sets of images in the 20th century,” said Allan Needell, a curator in space history at the National Air and Space Museum.

In an interview Monday, Needell said the museum had been told about the bag in June 2013 by Armstrong’s widow, who had found it while cleaning out a closet in their suburban Cincinnati home. Armstrong died in 2012.

The long process of documenting the find concluded only recently, and that’s when the museum decided to go public, he said.


After trying 2014 season, trouble keeps coming for NFL in 2015

Commissioner Roger Goodell declared at the Super Bowl that the NFL made “enormous progress” on social issues after last year’s incessant barrage of disturbing developments, led by the Ray Rice domestic violence and Adrian Peterson child abuse crises.

That bombardment hasn’t much abated in 2015, with at least eight players arrested, a star suspended, an agent indicted and a Hall of Famer fired.

Also enmeshed in the headlines are Johnny Manziel checking himself into a treatment program and the murder trial of Aaron Hernandez getting under way.

All of this against the backdrop of the league’s investigation into whether the Super Bowl champion Patriots surreptitiously provided under-inflated footballs for their AFC championship win.

“It’s a discouraging start to the new year,” said Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. “But my hope is it’s an anomaly for 2015.”

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