World Briefly for July 11

Published 6:44 pm Thursday, July 10, 2008

Prosecutor says new DNA tests clear JonBenet Ramsey’s family in her 1996 slaying

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Prosecutors cleared JonBenet Ramsey’s parents and brother Wednesday in the 1996 killing of the 6-year-old beauty queen and told the family they were “deeply sorry” for putting the Ramseys under a cloud of suspicion for more than a decade. The district attorney said new DNA tests point to a mysterious outsider.

“To the extent that we may have contributed in any way to the public perception that you might have been involved in this crime, I am deeply sorry,” Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy wrote in a letter to the little girl’s father, John Ramsey. “No innocent person should have to endure such an extensive trial in the court of public opinion.”

Lacy said new “touch DNA” tests on skin cells that were left behind on JonBenet’s long underwear point to an “unexplained third party” and not a member of the family.

John Ramsey, a software entrepreneur who now lives in Michigan, said Wednesday he is hopeful the killer will be found based on the DNA evidence.

“I think the people that are in charge of the investigation are focused on that, and that gives me a lot of comfort,” he told KUSA-TV in Denver. He added: “Certainly we are grateful that they acknowledged that we, based on that, certainly could not have been involved.”


Iran tests missiles in display of readiness to strike back in case of US, Israeli attack

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran test-fired nine missiles Wednesday, including ones capable of hitting Israel, making a dramatic show of its readiness to strike back if the United States or Israel attacks it over its nuclear program.

The launches sparked strong U.S. criticism and a jump in oil prices — underlining fears Iran might seal off the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf waterway through which 40 percent of the world’s crude passes, if military conflict does break out.

The tests of the long- and medium-range missiles did not appear to mark a significant advance in Iran’s missile capability — similar ones have been tested previously. But the timing and location were clearly aimed to send a message, coming as Iran has sharply stepped up the tone of its warnings of retaliation if attacked. This week, a top official of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Ali Shirazi, warned Tel Aviv would be “set on fire” in any Iranian retaliation.

The tests took place amid a military exercise that Iran has been conducting in the Hormuz strait, where Tehran has threatened to block oil traffic in response to any U.S. or Israeli military action.

Iran has long warned it would strike back for any attack against it. But it has sharpened its rhetoric since Israel’s military sent warplanes over the eastern Mediterranean in June for a large military exercise that U.S. officials described as a possible rehearsal for a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.


Obama, Clinton head to New York together with member of his vice presidential search team

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrat Barack Obama and his former rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, flew to New York on Wednesday along with his vice presidential searcher Caroline Kennedy.

Clinton, mentioned as a possible running mate, and Obama were to appear together at two fundraisers there Wednesday night.

The flight came on a day in which Obama touched off new speculation about his choice of a running mate by making an unannounced morning stop at the downtown building where another member of his vice presidential search team, Eric Holder, works.

Afterward, Obama wouldn’t say why he visited the building or whom he saw there.

Aides were tight lipped about why Obama, Clinton and Kennedy traveled together other than to cite the fundraisers. Kennedy is to introduce Obama at the first; Clinton will introduce him at the second.

Obama was already onboard his campaign plane when Clinton arrived. They greeted each other, stood in the aisle chatting for several minutes. Clinton then took her seat in the first row on the right side of the plane while Obama sat in the second row on the left. Neither spoke with reporters also aboard the campaign plane.


Salmonella toll tops 1,000; hot peppers added to raw tomatoes as possible cause of illness

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 1,000 people now are confirmed ill from salmonella initially linked to raw tomatoes, a grim milestone Wednesday that makes this the worst foodborne outbreak in at least a decade. Adding to the confusion, the government is warning certain people to avoid types of hot peppers, too.

Certain raw tomatoes — red round, plum and Roma — remain a chief suspect and the government stressed again Wednesday that all consumers should avoid them unless they were harvested in areas cleared of suspicion.

But people at highest risk of severe illness from salmonella also should not eat raw jalapeno and serrano peppers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Wednesday. The most vulnerable are the elderly, people with weak immune systems and infants.

Raw jalapenos caused some of the illnesses, conclude CDC investigations of two clusters of sick people who ate at the same restaurant or catered event.

But jalapenos cannot be the sole culprit — because many of the ill insist they didn’t eat hot peppers or foods like salsa that contain them, CDC food safety chief Dr. Robert Tauxe told The Associated Press. As for serrano peppers, that was included in the warning because they’re difficult for consumers to tell apart.


Ailing Kennedy returns to the Senate to vote on Medicare bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, battling a brain tumor, walked through a wall of applause and into the Senate on Wednesday and cast a dramatic, decisive vote on long-stalled Medicare legislation.

“Aye,” the 76-year-old Kennedy said in a loud voice, smiling broadly and making a thumbs-up gesture as he registered his vote.

Spectators in the galleries that overhang the chamber burst into cheers — a violation of decorum that drew no complaints.

Kennedy made his way into the Senate on his own power, appearing little the worse for his illness. A patch of scalp was clearly visible through his familiar white hair, although it was not clear whether that was a result of surgery he underwent or the effects of chemotherapy or radiation that are part of his treatment.

He walked into chamber accompanied by Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, his party’s presidential nominee-in-waiting, as well as fellow Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Kennedy’s son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island.


Gunmen kill 3 policemen in attack on US consulate in Turkey; 3 attackers also dead

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) — Gunmen believed inspired by al-Qaida stormed a guard post outside the U.S. consulate Wednesday, touching off a deadly firefight that underscored Turkey’s difficulty in clamping down on homegrown militants. Three assailants and three police officers were killed in the blitz-style assault.

The bearded gunmen emerged from a car and shot a traffic officer dead, then swarmed the guard quarters at the entrance to the consulate, where two policemen were killed, according to security video. Officers fired back, killing three of the assailants — all Turks — as bystanders fled for cover and at least one attacker escaped in the car.

While an officer told The Associated Press police suspected the armed men were linked to al-Qaida, the gunslinger attack did not match the terror group’s hallmarks, such as coordinated attacks by suicide bombers that cause mass casualties.

The suspects, however, may have been inspired by al-Qaida ideology without the capability to carry out more sophisticated attacks. The police officer in Istanbul spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

At least one assailant escaped in the car. No staff at the consulate, a relatively new building perched on a hill and surrounded by high walls, were hurt, U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson said.


UN says 7 peacekeepers killed in Darfur, attackers on horseback ambushed force

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — About 200 gunmen on horseback and in SUVs launched a brazen attack on international peacekeepers in Darfur, killing seven in the deadliest strike against the under-equipped and understaffed mission since it deployed, the U.N. said Wednesday.

Twenty-two members of the U.N.-African Union force were wounded in the fierce two-hour gunbattle Tuesday by militants who outnumbered them nearly three-to-one.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s office said the joint military and police patrol was investigating the killing of civilians in North Darfur state when it was ambushed by militants driving vehicles armed with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons.

Five Rwandan soldiers and two police officers, one from Ghana and the other from Uganda, were killed.

“We are outraged by the attack,” Shereen Zorba, deputy spokeswoman of the U.N.-AU mission known as UNAMID, told The Associated Press.

“We are not part of the conflict, but a tool to alleviate the suffering of civilians. We try to establish some level of peace and security in the ground. But to drag us in to be part of the conflict is unjustifiable.”


Flames force Calif. residents to flee homes again ahead of wind-whipped wildfire

OROVILLE, Calif. (AP) — For Clay and Nancy Henphill, running from raging wildfires has become a familiar routine.

For the second time in just over two weeks, they were forced to evacuate their home after fire officials ordered 10,000 people in the Sierra Nevada foothills to flee ahead of a wind-whipped blaze, one of about 40 lightning-sparked wildfires that have charred 49,000 acres over the past two weeks.

The Henphills awoke to blaring sirens around 1 a.m. Tuesday and were told to leave immediately. Only a week earlier, they had returned to their home in Concow, a rural community about 90 miles north of Sacramento, after spending a week at a shelter.

“They were running sirens all down through there. We started tossing a few things in the car. A fireman said, ‘Get out of here quick,'” Clay Henphill, 59, said Wednesday. “We all came out in a long lines of cars, with fire trucks going in as we were going out.”

The couple grabbed clothes, medicine, camping gear and the family dog and jumped in their car. They spent Tuesday night in a tent outside an emergency shelter in Oroville.


Senate passes eavesdropping rules, bowing to Bush and letting phone companies off lawsuit hook

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bowing to President Bush’s demands, the Senate approved and sent the White House a bill Wednesday to overhaul bitterly disputed rules on secret government eavesdropping and shield telecommunications companies from lawsuits complaining they helped the U.S. spy on Americans.

The relatively one-sided vote, 69-28, came only after a lengthy and heated debate that pitted privacy and civil liberties concerns against the desire to prevent terrorist attacks. It ended almost a year of wrangling over surveillance rules and the president’s warrantless wiretapping program that was initiated after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The House passed the same bill last month, and Bush said he would sign it soon.

Opponents assailed the eavesdropping program, asserting that it imperiled citizens’ rights of privacy from government intrusion. But Bush said the legislation protects those rights as well as Americans’ security.

“This bill will help our intelligence professionals learn who the terrorists are talking to, what they’re saying and what they’re planning,” he said in a brief White House appearance after the Senate vote.


Police: Polygamist leader Jeffs hospitalized after suffering weakness, fever in Ariz. jail

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs was taken from jail in Arizona to a Las Vegas hospital after he was found weak, feverish and “convulsive” in his cell, a jail official said Wednesday.

The 52-year-old president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was brought about 100 miles to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas by helicopter Tuesday.

He had been found “in a weakened state of health, acting in a convulsive manner, shaking, and running a fever,” said Trish Carter, spokeswoman for Mohave County, Ariz., Sheriff Tom Sheahan.

The sect leader was convicted in Utah last year and then brought to Kingman, Ariz., in February to await another trial there. He has had several health complications in custody, including a trip to a Utah prison infirmary in early 2007 because of a self-imposed fast.

Jeffs also attempted suicide last year and was seen throwing himself against the walls and banging his head, authorities said.