Saturday, February 16, 2013

Published:

Oscar Pistorius' family strongly denies murder charge over shooting death of model girlfriend

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- Oscar Pistorius is "numb with shock as well as grief" after the shooting death of his model girlfriend at his home in South Africa, the runner's uncle said Saturday, as his family strongly denied prosecutors' claims that he murdered her.

Arnold Pistorius spoke with The Associated Press and two other South African journalists about his nephew's arrest in the killing of Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot four times on the morning of Valentine's Day. Arnold Pistorius spoke to reporters from the garden of his three-story home in the eastern suburbs of South Africa's capital, Pretoria.

The statement, the first on camera and directly made in person by Pistorius' family, also came out strongly against prosecutors seeking to upgrade the charge against Pistorius to one of premeditated murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison.

"After consulting with legal representatives, we deeply regret the allegation of premeditated murder," Arnold Pistorius said. "We have no doubt there is no substance to the allegation and that the state's own case, including its own forensic evidence, strongly refutes any possibility of a premeditated murder or murder as such."

He said the family was "battling to come to terms with Oscar being charged with murder."

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Reality TV show featuring model shot, killed at Pistorius' house airs in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Reeva Steenkamp's last wish for her family before she was shot dead at boyfriend Oscar Pistorius' home was for them to watch her in a reality TV show that went on air in South Africa on Saturday night, two days after her killing.

Sharon Steenkamp, Reeva's cousin, told The Associated Press that the model and law graduate was "proud of being in the show" and reminded them in their last conversation to make sure that they watched it.

The South African Broadcasting Corp. aired the "Tropika Island of Treasure" program, showing the late Steenkamp -- the victim of a Valentine's Day shooting at the home of Pistorius, the Olympic star and double-amputee athlete. She is laughing and smiling, and blowing a kiss toward the camera in Jamaica when it was filmed last year.

South Africans also saw her swimming in the ocean and watching people jump off a cliff and into the sea, shaking her head as they leaped.

SABC said it was dedicated to Steenkamp and displayed the words "Reeva Steenkamp 19 August 1983 - 14 February 2013" between images of a rose and a candle in a short tribute before the show aired. She was also seen blowing the kiss as she sat on a Jamaican beach and her name again appeared on screen with the years of her birth and death.

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City of broken glass: Russian region labors to replace acres of windows smashed in meteor fall

CHELYABINSK, Russia (AP) -- As a small army of people worked to replace acres of windows shattered by the enormous explosion from a meteor, many joked on Saturday about what had happened in this troubled pocket of Russia.

One of the most popular jests: Residents of the meteor were terrified to see Chelyabinsk approaching.

The fireball that streaked into the sky over this tough industrial city at about sunrise Friday was undeniably traumatic. Nearly 1,200 people were reported injured by the shock wave from the explosion, estimated to be as strong as 20 Hiroshima atomic bombs.

But it also brought a sense of cooperation in a troubled region. Large numbers of volunteers came forward to help fix the damage caused by the explosion and many residents came together on the Internet -- first to find out what happened and soon to make jokes.

Chelyabinsk, nicknamed Tankograd because it produced the famed Soviet T-34 tanks, can be as grim as its backbone heavy industries. Long winters where temperatures routinely hit minus-30 Celsius (minus-22 Fahrenheit) add to a general dour mien, as do worries about dangerous facilities in the surrounding region.

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Latest try at new assault weapons ban would exempt more than 2,200 specific firearms

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress' latest crack at a new assault weapons ban would protect more than 2,200 specific firearms, including a semi-automatic rifle that is nearly identical to one of the guns used in the bloodiest shootout in FBI history.

One model of that firearm, the Ruger .223 caliber Mini-14, is on the proposed list to be banned, while a different model of the same gun is on a list of exempted firearms in legislation the Senate is considering. The gun that would be protected from the ban has fixed physical features and can't be folded to be more compact. Yet the two firearms are equally deadly.

"What a joke," said former FBI agent John Hanlon, who survived the 1986 shootout in Miami. He was shot in the head, hand, groin and hip with a Ruger Mini-14 that had a folding stock. Two FBI agents died and five others were wounded.

Hanlon recalled lying on the street as brass bullet casings showered on him. He thought the shooter had an automatic weapon.

Both models of the Ruger Mini-14 specified in the proposed bill can take detachable magazines that hold dozens of rounds of ammunition. "I can't imagine what the difference is," Hanlon said.

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LAPD cop killer gone but suffering remains for 3 police forces, victims' loved ones

BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (AP) -- As soon as he heard officers were chasing the suspected cop killer in a stolen truck, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy Roger Loftis was certain: His buddy Jeremiah MacKay would be there.

In 15 years with the department, "Jer" had earned about a dozen and a half awards for 10851s -- the California penal code for grand theft auto. Once, while heading to a bar to celebrate another award, MacKay noticed there were no keys in the ignition of the car next to him at a traffic light, and he veered off.

He waltzed into the bar two hours later, a grin stretched across that fair, freckled face, a copy of an auto recovery record in his hand.

Last week, Loftis called his fishing, drinking and golfing buddy to see how he was doing. He knew the 35-year-old detective had been working around the clock, scouring the San Bernardino Mountains in the search for former Los Angeles Police Officer Christopher Dorner.

"If that guy's still on this mountain," MacKay told him, "I'm going to find him."

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Wife and daughters away, Obama flees empty White House for Florida golf weekend with buddies

PALM CITY, Fla. (AP) -- Faced with a long weekend in an empty White House, President Barack Obama figured he needed a getaway, too, so he put together a golf outing with some buddies.

Not at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland or at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, two Washington-area military posts where he's a regular on their courses.

Instead, he went south, to Florida, to spend the long President's Day weekend staying and playing at the Floridian, an exclusive and secluded yacht and golf club on the state's Treasure Coast. He arrived Friday night after a speech in Chicago and wasn't expected to be seen again in public -- including by the members of the news media traveling with him -- until he returns to Washington on Monday.

"At this time, there are no public events scheduled or plans for the president to leave the grounds of the golf club," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Saturday.

Call it a weekend with the boys, presidential style.

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After Benedict's startling announcement, analysts re-examine chances for an American pope

NEW YORK (AP) -- Conventional wisdom holds that no one from the United States could be elected pope, that the superpower has more than enough worldly influence without an American in the seat of St. Peter.

But after Pope Benedict XVI's extraordinary abdication, church analysts are wondering whether old assumptions still apply, including whether the idea of a U.S. pontiff remains off the table.

Benedict himself has set a tone for change with his dramatic personal example. He is the first pontiff in six centuries to step down. Church leaders and canon lawyers are scrambling to resolve a litany of dilemmas they had never anticipated, such as scheduling a conclave without a funeral first and choosing a title for a former pope.

The conclaves that created the last two pontificates had already upended one tradition: Polish-born Pope John Paul II ended 455 years of Italian papacies with his surprise selection in 1978. Benedict, born in Bavaria, was the first German pope since the 11th century.

"With the election of John Paul, with the election of Benedict, one wonders if the former boundaries seem not to have any more credibility," New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said, discussing Benedict's decision this week at SiriusXM's "The Catholic Channel."

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Former US Rep. Jackson Jr.'s charges tied to status objects, not power; analyst calls it 'sad'

CHICAGO (AP) -- For all the talk of Jesse Jackson Jr. aspiring to be a U.S. senator or mayor of the nation's third-largest city, his career wasn't ended by attempts to amass political power.

Instead, it was the former congressman's desire for flashy items -- a gold-plated Rolex watch, furs and collectibles, such as Eddie Van Halen's guitar.

In a state where stop-at-nothing political ambition has been well documented -- and often rewarded -- the seemingly frivolous cause of Jackson's undoing is seen by political observers and former colleagues as both nonsensical and sad.

"When you have a magic name like that, he was in position, waiting for the gun to go off, for mayor, the Senate ... he was playing with the big guys," said Paul Green, a longtime political scientist at Roosevelt University in Chicago who moderated Jackson's first congressional campaign debate. "To go down for this, you just feel sad."

Federal prosecutors on Friday charged Jackson Jr. with one count of conspiracy for allegedly spending $750,000 in campaign money on personal expenses. The Chicago Democrat's wife, former alderman Sandra Jackson, was charged with one count of filing false joint federal income tax returns.

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Rihanna brings bad girl chic, Issa channels Native Americans as London Fashion Week gears up

LONDON (AP) -- London Fashion Week moved into high international gear Saturday with a debut collection from Barbadian pop diva Rihanna, a Native American-inspired show by Brazilian-born Issa and a host of other eclectic offerings.

No one went to Rihanna's Saturday night debut as a fashion designer expecting demure dresses set off with tasteful pearls.

So no one was surprised by the double-volume hip-hop music, smoke machines and champagne that greeted guests at the unveiling of her Rihanna for River Island collection.

And few were taken aback by the bad girl, rock chick styling of some of her clothes, with tight-fitting jersey outfits and dresses cut to show more than a bit of leg.

It was a fun, flattering collection aimed at young women, containing nothing shocking or outrageous from a singer who has been known to bring those elements to her live performances.

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No drama this time, just smiles and hugs, as Tyson goes toe to toe with Holyfield again

CHICAGO (AP) -- Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield stood toe to toe again, only this time there were hugs and smiles -- and no bites to the ear.

The ill will that marked the former champions' rivalry was nowhere in sight. Instead, they were like old friends meeting in a supermarket, which is exactly what they did on Saturday.

They were at a Jewel-Osco on Chicago's South Side, where Holyfield was signing autographs and promoting his barbecue sauce. Tyson, in town performing his one-man show, made a cameo.

"I just wanted to see Evander, man," Tyson said. "I love Evander. I'm forever linked with him for the rest of my life."

Hard to believe those words came from the man who bit off a piece of Holyfield's ear during a fight, but the former "Baddest Man On The Planet" is showing a different side.