• Nation and World Briefs
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     | August 05,2014
     

    Detroit

    Defendant in shooting testifies

    A suburban Detroit man said Monday that he was afraid when someone showed up on his porch before dawn one morning last year and started banging on his doors, but he wasn’t going to be a victim in his own home.

    “I wasn’t going to cower in my house,” Theodore Wafer told jurors at his trial for the Nov. 2 killing of 19-year-old Renisha McBride, who was drunk but unarmed.

    Wafer is charged with second-degree murder and could be sentenced to up to life in prison with the chance for parole, if he’s convicted. He says he shot McBride in self-defense, but prosecutors say Wafer could have stayed safely behind his locked doors and called 911 instead of confronting McBride, whom he didn’t know.

    Wafer, 55, took the stand on the seventh day of testimony. Legal experts had speculated that he would have to testify in his own defense to convince the jury that he had a reasonable and honest fear for his life that morning.

    Softly and methodically, Wafer told the Wayne County Circuit Court jury how he followed loud bangs from his front door to his side door and back to the front again before fetching his 12-gauge shotgun.



    St. louis

    States carry on with executions

    Despite a shortage of lethal-injection drugs, two of the nation’s most active death penalty states have quietly carried on with executions by turning to pentobarbital, a powerful sedative that generally puts inmates to death swiftly and without complications.

    Missouri and Texas have avoided the prolonged executions seen in other states where authorities are struggling to find a reliable chemical combination. The drug’s apparent effectiveness raises questions about why it has not been more widely adopted.

    “There is a better drug, and that better drug is pentobarbital,” said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

    Lethal injection is in the spotlight after executions went awry in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona, which all use midazolam, a drug that is more commonly given to help patients relax before surgery. In executions, it is part of a two- or three-drug lethal injection.

    Texas and Missouri instead administer a single large dose of pentobarbital, which is often used to treat convulsions and seizures and to euthanize animals.



    Washington

    Groups say program hurt aid work

    A U.S. program in Cuba that secretly used an HIV-prevention workshop for political activism was assailed Monday by international public health officials and members of Congress who declared that such clandestine efforts put health programs at risk around the world.

    Beginning in late 2009, the U.S. Agency for International Development deployed nearly a dozen young people from Latin America to Cuba to recruit political activists, an Associated Press investigation found. The operation put the foreigners in danger not long after a U.S. contractor was hauled away to a Cuban jail.

    Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Monday it would be “worse than irresponsible” if USAID “concocted” an HIV-prevention workshop to promote a political agenda.

    And InterAction, an alliance of global non-governmental aid groups, said, “The use of an HIV workshop for intelligence purposes is unacceptable. The U.S. government should never sacrifice delivering basic health services or civic programs to advance an intelligence goal.”

    The Obama administration defended its use of the HIV-prevention workshop for its Cuban democracy-promotion efforts but disputed that the project was a front for political purposes. The program “enabled support for Cuban civil society, while providing a secondary benefit of addressing the desires Cubans express for information and training about HIV prevention,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.



    Australia

    Country might intervene in case

    Seven-month-old Gammy, who was born with Down syndrome and a congenital heart condition, is being cared for by his young Thai surrogate mother after his Australian biological parents left him behind in Thailand, taking home only his healthy twin sister.

    Now the Australian government says it is considering intervening in the case, with the country’s immigration minister saying Monday that the little blond, brown-eyed boy might be entitled to Australian citizenship.

    Pattaramon Chanbua, a 21-year-old food vendor who has two young children of her own, says she met the Australian couple only once, when the babies were born, and knew only that they lived in Western Australia state. The couple has not been publicly identified.

    Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison called Pattaramon “an absolute hero” and “a saint,” but said the law surrounding the case “is very, very murky.”

    “We are taking a close look at what can be done here, but I wouldn’t want to raise any false hopes or expectations,” Morrison told Sydney Radio 2GB. “We are dealing with something that has happened in another country’s jurisdiction.”



    New York

    Scrabble players rejoice

    To Scrabble fanatics, big gifts sometimes come in small packages.

    The word “te” as a variant of “ti,” the seventh tone on the musical scale, is a hardworking little gem among 5,000 words added to “The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary,” out Aug. 11 from Merriam-Webster.

    The dictionary’s last freshening up was a decade ago. Entries in the forthcoming book include texter, vlog, bromance, hashtag, dubstep and selfie were mere twinkles on the racks of recreational players.

    But it’s the addition of te and three other two-letter words — da, gi and po — that has Robin Pollock Daniel excited. Daniel, a clinical psychologist in Toronto, is a champion of the North American Scrabble Players Association, which has a committee that helps Merriam-Webster track down new, playable words of two to eight letters.

    “Being able to hook an ‘e’ underneath ‘t’ means that I can play far more words,” explained Daniel, who practices Scrabble two to four hours a day. “Sometimes you play parallel to a word and you’re making two-letter words along the way. I call those the amino acids of Scrabble. The more two-letter words we have, the more possibilities a word will fit.”

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