- Associated Press - Monday, March 23, 2015

Police chief: No evidence of gang rape doesn’t mean something terrible didn’t happen at UVa

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - A four-month police investigation into an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia that Rolling Stone magazine described in graphic detail produced no evidence of the attack and was stymied by the accuser’s unwillingness to cooperate, authorities said Monday.

The article, titled “A rape on campus,” focused on a student identified only as “Jackie” who said she was raped at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity more than two years earlier.

It described a hidden culture of sexual violence fueled by binge drinking at the college. Police said they found no evidence of that either.

There were numerous discrepancies between the article, published in November 2014, and what investigators found, said Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo, who took care not to accuse Jackie of lying.

The case is suspended, not closed, and the fact that investigators could not find evidence years later “doesn’t mean that something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie,” Longo said.

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Israel’s Netanyahu apologizes for offending Arab citizens with his comments during election

JERUSALEM (AP) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Israel’s Arab citizens on Monday for remarks he made during last week’s parliament election that offended members of the community.

The move appeared to be an attempt to heal rifts and mute criticism at home and in the United States. Netanyahu drew accusations of racism in Israel, especially from its Arab minority, and a White House rebuke when, just a few hours before polling stations were to close across the country, he warned that Arab citizens were voting “in droves.”

But President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, rejected Netanyahu’s attempt to distance himself from his comments, telling an Israel advocacy group Monday that the U.S. can’t just overlook what Netanyahu said on the eve of his re-election.

Netanyahu, whose Likud Party won re-election in the vote, met with members of the Arab community at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem on Monday and apologized.

He said he knows his “comments last week offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli-Arab community.”

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Cruz goes all-in on conservatives, starting White House bid with scant attention to moderates

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) - Launching his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas asked Christian conservative voters to imagine a United States without the IRS, Obamacare or abortion rights - and to imagine they can make that happen by supporting him.

His aspirational appeal on Monday, aimed at America’s most conservative voters, could quickly run into challenges in winning over moderate voters - and eventually deep difficulties in governing should Cruz win the White House.

But it’s a message that Cruz, the first major 2016 contender to declare himself a candidate, is expected to forcefully emphasize in the coming year before voters start to pick nominees.

“God’s blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation, and I believe that God isn’t done with Americans,” Cruz declared at Liberty University, a Christian school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

“I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise of America. And that is that is why, today, I am announcing that I am running for president of the United States of America.”

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3 dead in scaffolding collapse at 11-story high-rise under construction in downtown Raleigh

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Workers were dismantling a scaffold at a high-rise construction project on Monday when a piece of it fell to the ground in downtown Raleigh, killing three men and sending another to a hospital.

All four men were involved in the construction of Charter Square, a glass and steel building in downtown Raleigh, said Jeffrey Hammerstein, community outreach chief for Wake County EMS.

A 911 caller told the operator that men were working on the scaffold when it fell about 11 a.m. The equipment, known as a mast climber scaffold, moves up and down a building’s facade to take workers to different floors.

“We just had a mast climber fall off. There were men on it,” the caller said, estimating the men fell 200 feet.

The operator asked if the victims were awake, to which the caller responded: “No, they’re dead.”

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Governor signs law making Utah only state to use firing squads if lethal drugs are unavailable

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah became the only state to allow firing squads for executions Monday when Gov. Gary Herbert signed a law approving the method’s use when no lethal-injection drugs are available.

Herbert has said he finds the firing squad “a little bit gruesome,” but Utah is a capital punishment state and needs a backup execution method in case a shortage of the drugs persists.

“We regret anyone ever commits the heinous crime of aggravated murder to merit the death penalty, and we prefer to use our primary method of lethal injection when such a sentence is issued,” Herbert spokesman Marty Carpenter said. “However, when a jury makes the decision and a judge signs a death warrant, enforcing that lawful decision is the obligation of the executive branch.”

The measure’s approval is the latest illustration of some states’ frustration over bungled executions and difficulty obtaining the drugs. Utah is one of several states seeking new forms of capital punishment after a botched Oklahoma lethal injection last year.

States have struggled to keep up their drug inventories as European manufacturers opposed to capital punishment refuse to sell the components of lethal injections to U.S. prisons.

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WHO spokeswoman: Politics played no role in the declaration of an Ebola emergency

LONDON (AP) - The World Health Organization denied Monday that politics swayed the decision to declare an international emergency over the spread of the Ebola virus last year, despite evidence senior staffers repeatedly discussed the diplomatic and economic fallout of such a move.

A year after WHO declared that Ebola had been found in Guinea, the agency is on the defensive over reports that it dragged its feet when raising the international alarm over the disease. Internal communications published by The Associated Press last week documented senior agency staff discouraging the move about two months before the international alert was finally raised, citing diplomatic relations, mining interests and the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

WHO spokeswoman Dr. Margaret Harris said Monday that “political considerations did not play a role” and that notions to the contrary were due to a misinterpretation of the leaked documents.

Political worries appear to loom large in the communications obtained by AP, which include emails and memoranda. A June 10 memo sent to WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan says declaring an emergency - or convening a committee to discuss the issue - could be seen as a “hostile act” by Ebola-affected countries. When senior African staff floated the idea of declaring an emergency on June 4, WHO official Dr. Sylvie Briand wrote that she saw such a move as a “last resort.”

An international emergency was eventually declared on Aug. 8, by which point nearly 1,000 people had died.

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Alaska police discover four bodies, handgun near home of family missing since May

KENAI, Alaska (AP) - Authorities investigating the disappearance of an Alaska family missing for nearly a year have discovered four bodies and a handgun about a half a mile from their home.

Kenai police Lt. Dave Ross said Monday the bodies haven’t been identified by a coroner, but police have every indication it’s the missing family.

He added that they believe the gun came from the family home based on a serial number match.

Ross provided few details, saying the investigation remains open. But he said there’s no reason to believe another person was involved in the deaths or that the bodies were moved.

He said the remains of a dog that match the size of the family dog also were found along the trail.

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Darren Sharper pleads no contest in Los Angeles drug-rape case, guilty in Arizona sex assault

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Former NFL star Darren Sharper removed all doubt Monday that he drugged and raped women, taking the first of several legal steps to own up to sex assaults in four states that will send him to federal prison for nine years.

He pleaded guilty to sexual assault in Arizona and no contest in California to raping two women he knocked out with a potent sedative mixed with booze.

Sharper, 39, wearing a striped, light blue suit, said he was entering the plea because it was in his best interest. He had faced up to 33 years in prison if convicted of all counts against him in California.

By not contesting the charges, the former all-pro safety who won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints, admitted he raped two women he drugged after meeting them at a West Hollywood bar in 2013 and 2014. The no contest plea has the same effect as a conviction.

The women were not in court, but prosecutors said they had agreed to the plea deal.

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Bye-bye blackouts: NFL suspends TV blackouts for 2015 season

PHOENIX (AP) - The NFL is saying bye-bye to blackouts. At least for 2015.

No NFL games will be blocked from local television next season, the league said Monday at the owners’ meetings. The teams voted for a one-year suspension of the long-standing blackout policy for the preseason and regular season.

There were no blackouts last season, because the minimum number of tickets, by NFL sellout standards, was sold for every game, and the league had only two blackouts in 2013.

Still, the experiment is a huge step for the NFL, whose blackout policy dates back decades. In the 1970s, half of NFL games were blocked from local TV because the games did not sell enough tickets. Some teams - Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, Oakland, St. Louis and San Diego - have struggled to avoid blackouts, and the league is taking a bit of a gamble for 2015.

The policy stipulates that a home game must be sold out 72 hours in advance of kickoff in order to be televised locally. Often, that deadline is extended to ensure sellouts if a club believes it can meet the criteria for lifting the blackout.

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Taylor Swift, Harvard, Microsoft among those buying up .porn, .adult suffixes as a precaution

NEW YORK (AP) - The singer Taylor Swift, Microsoft Corp. and Harvard University are among those buying up .porn and .adult Web suffixes as a pre-emptive move before those domain names become available this summer.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is making Internet address suffixes beyond the usual .com or .org available for people and businesses to use. While some are in Chinese or other languages besides English, others could include the likes of .music, .app or, of course, .porn.

To check what brands, groups and celebrities have bought their domain names, visit https://icmregistry.com/domaincheckhttps://icmregistry.com/domaincheck . According to the site, Microsoft has bought not only Microsoft.porn but Office.porn and Office.adult as well.

Representatives for Taylor Swift, Microsoft and Harvard could not immediately be reached for comment.

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