United States

Around the World: February 25, 2015

Here's what's happening across the United States and around the world today.
 
Ex-Marine guilty of murder in 'American Sniper' trial faces life in prison without parole
 
STEPHENVILLE, Texas (AP) — A Texas jury has rejected the insanity defense of a former Marine in the deaths of famed "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle and another man.
 
After a two-week trial in which jurors heard testimony about defendant Eddie Ray Routh's erratic behavior, including statements about anarchy, the apocalypse and pig-human hybrids, they convicted Routh Tuesday night in the deaths of Kyle and Chad Littlefield at a Texas shooting range two years ago.
 
Routh showed no reaction as a judge sentenced him to life in prison without parole, an automatic sentence since prosecutors didn't seek the death penalty in the capital murder case. As one of his victim's siblings called him an "American disgrace" shortly after, Routh looked back at the man intensely but didn't react otherwise.
 
The verdict capped an emotional trial in which prosecutors painted the 27-year-old as a troubled drug user who knew right from wrong, despite any mental illnesses. Defense attorneys said he suffered from schizophrenia and was suffering a psychotic episode at the time of the shootings. While trial testimony and evidence often included Routh making odd statements and referring to insanity, he also confessed several times, apologized for the crimes and tried to evade police after the crime.
 
"You took the lives of two heroes, men who tried to be a friend to you," Chad Littlefield's half brother Jerry Richardson told Routh after the verdict. "And you became an American disgrace."

Pressure centers on House GOP on Homeland Security funding bill with partial shutdown looming
 
WASHINGTON (AP) — Days ahead of a looming partial agency shutdown, the pressure is on House Republicans after Senate GOP leaders agreed to Democratic demands and announced legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department without contentious immigration provisions opposed by Democrats and President Barack Obama.
 
Early reviews from House conservatives were negative ahead of a closed-door caucus meeting set for Wednesday morning, their first since returning from a weeklong congressional recess. Several insisted they could not accept the two-part strategy proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: a vote on legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department, and a separate vote to overturn Obama's recent executive actions sparing millions of immigrants in this country illegally from deportation.
 
The approach "is tantamount to surrender, and won't meet with support in the people's House," said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz. "I will fight against any funding bill that does not fully defund the president's illegal actions."
 
Yet with a partial shutdown set to trigger at midnight Friday without congressional action, options were few for Republicans who won full control of Congress in November's midterm elections in part on promises to block Obama's immigration policies.
 
They could allow the agency's funding to expire, violating their leaders' promises that there would be no more shutdowns on the GOP watch. They could try to pass a short-term extension of current funding levels, postponing the conflict to another day. Or they could go along with McConnell's strategy of funding the agency fully while registering their disapproval of Obama's immigration policies with a separate vote.

Utah CEO pushes justice overhaul, wins government contracts while fighting repeat offenses

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The CEO of a Utah company that has emerged as a key player in a national movement to overhaul the justice system is a repeat offender himself.
 
Sean Hosman's dual roles as advocate for change and repeat visitor at county jails provide a striking case study in an expanding national effort to use insurance industry methods to help predict future crimes and steer defendants toward treatment.
 
His company, Assessments.com, has won 100 contracts with state and county governments from Florida to California. He has spoken at justice forums in Texas, Idaho and Washington state.
 
At the same time, Hosman has been arrested at least nine times since 2010, four for DUI and one for cocaine possession. Just like tens of thousands of defendants undergoing this process known as risk assessment, he has been booked, assessed, jailed and sent to rehab.
 
He said he has been clean since July 5, 2012, the date of his last DUI.

Fate of abducted Christians unclear as fierce fighting continues in northeastern Syria

BEIRUT (AP) — Fierce fighting between Kurdish and Christian militiamen and Islamic State militants is continuing in northeastern Syria where the extremist group recently abducted at least 70 Christians.
 
Hassakeh province which borders Turkey and Iraq is the latest stage for the fight against IS. The group overran a cluster of villages nestled along the Khabur River on Monday, seizing dozens of Christians, many of them women and children.
 
Thousands of others fled to safer areas.
 
The fate of those kidnapped was still unclear Wednesday, two days after they were seized.
 
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a Christian group called the Syriac Military Council said heavy clashes against IS militants in the area are continuing.

Thailand's multibillion-dollar seafood industry plagued by pirates and slaves on high seas
 
SAMUT SAKHON, Thailand (AP) — Urine pools under a bed where an emaciated Burmese man lies wearing only a T-shirt and a diaper.
 
As he struggles to sit up and steady himself, he tears at his thick, dark hair in agitation. He cannot walk and doesn't remember his family or even his own name. He speaks mostly gibberish in broken Indonesian — a language he learned while working in the country as a slave aboard a Thai fishing boat.
 
Near death from a lack of proper food, he was rescued from a tiny island in Indonesia two months ago. He is just one of countless hidden casualties from the fishing industry in Thailand, the world's third-largest seafood exporter.
 
A report released Wednesday by the British nonprofit Environmental Justice Foundation said that overfishing and the use of illegal and undocumented trawlers have ravaged Thailand's marine ecosystems and depleted fish stocks. Boats are now catching about 85 percent less than what they brought in 50 years ago, making it "one of the most overfished regions on the planet," the report said.
 
Shrinking fisheries in the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea have, in turn, pushed Thai fishing boats farther and farther from home. The group estimates that up to half of all fish labeled a "product of Thailand" is sourced from outside its borders — mainly in Asia, but as far away as Africa.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard attacks mock US aircraft carrier in drill near strategic strait

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's Revolutionary Guard launched large-scale naval and air defense drills near a strategic Gulf waterway on Wednesday in which dozens of speedboats swarmed a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier.
 
The drill, named Great Prophet 9, was held near the Strait of Hormuz, through which one fifth of the world's oil passes. Iran's regular army carried out naval drills near the strait in December.
 
State TV showed footage of missiles fired from the coast and the fast boats striking the mock U.S. aircraft carrier. The drills, which also included shooting down a drone and planting undersea mines, were the first to involve a replica of a U.S. carrier.
 
"American aircraft carriers are very big ammunition depots housing a lot of missiles, rockets, torpedoes and everything else," the Guard's navy chief, Adm. Ali Fadavi, said on state TV, adding that a direct hit by a missile could set off a large secondary explosion. Last month Fadavi said his force is capable of sinking American aircraft carriers in the event of war.
 
The Guard's chief commander, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, said the drills send a "message of (Iran's) might" to "extraterritorial powers," a reference to the United States.

Candidates try to woo weary, wary voters in Britain's most unpredictable election

ATHERSTONE, England (AP) — Posters are being printed and slogans are being polished as Britain's politicians battle it out in the most unpredictable national election in decades. One top election analyst has dubbed it "the lottery election."
 
Voters, though, don't seem very excited about who gets the prize.
 
"There's nobody who can run a country. They all lie to us," said Victor Loach, a fishmonger selling his wares in the cobbled central square of Atherstone, 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of London. "And why do they shout at each other like children?"
 
It's a common refrain. Opinion polls suggest voters are lukewarm about both Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives, seeking a second term, and Ed Miliband's opposition Labour Party.
 
So who is going to win the May 7 vote?

Chicago Mayor Emanuel gears up for runoff for re-election against County Commissioner Garcia

CHICAGO (AP) — After failing to persuade a majority of Chicago voters to back his re-election bid, Mayor Rahm Emanuel could face an even stiffer challenge in April against a runoff opponent aiming to consolidate the support of residents unhappy with how the former White House chief of staff has managed the nation's third-largest city.
 
In a race Tuesday against four challengers, Emanuel discovered it wasn't enough to spend millions of dollars on TV ads, earn the backing of the city's business leaders, and secure the hometown endorsement of President Barack Obama. In order to keep the job, he'll need to win another race in six weeks against Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, a Cook County commissioner who claims the backing of teachers, unions and neighborhood residents disillusioned with Emanuel.
 
Emanuel pledged to rev up campaigning immediately, starting Wednesday morning by shaking hands with residents at Chicago Transit Authority stops.
 
"We will get back out there, talking to our friends and families and neighbors as they make a critical choice about who has the strength, who has the leadership, who has the ideas to move this great city forward," Emanuel told supporters Tuesday evening.
 
But Garcia and his supporters said they'd be ready for another contest, with national groups poised to weigh in on the mayor's race.

As HSBC chiefs prepare testify in UK, questions over whether some banks too big to manage
 
LONDON (AP) — First there was money laundering. Then foreign-exchange rigging. Now tax evasion.
 
HSBC, Europe's biggest bank, has endured a string of scandals — and paid millions in penalties to regulators around the world. But recent revelations that its Swiss private bank helped the wealthy evade taxes are raising new questions about HSBC's conduct and shining a spotlight on an industry still reeling from the 2008 financial crisis.
 
Politicians and analysts are asking whether big banks, which during the crisis were considered to be too large to be allowed to fail without endangering the wider economy, have also become too big to manage.
 
"If they're too big to fail, they're too big to control," said Crawford Spence, a professor of accounting at Warwick Business School. "But are they too big to bludgeon into corporate responsibility?"
 
HSBC Chairman Douglas Flint and Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver may get the chance to answer that question Wednesday, when the U.K. Parliament's Treasury Committee grills them about allegations that HSBC's Swiss private bank actively marketed tax avoidance schemes that helped as many as 1,000 Britons evade taxes.

Without hate crime, US limited in prosecuting Zimmerman because he wasn't a police officer
 
MIAMI (AP) — The Justice Department's decision to not prosecute a civilian neighborhood watch volunteer for a hate crime in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager is not necessarily a harbinger of how it will rule in two other high-profile deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers, legal experts say.
 
That is because the standards used to gauge the existence of a hate crime committed by civilians are different from those used to measure the behavior of police officers, who can be charged with depriving someone of their civil rights by using excessive force in the course of duty.
 
Because George Zimmerman was not a police officer, the U.S. Justice Department could only prosecute him for fatally shooting teenager Trayvon Martin nearly three years ago if it had sufficient evidence the killing was motivated by racial bias or hatred, the experts say.
 
Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida, without any legal authority associated with law enforcement officers. Zimmerman claimed he shot the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense, and he was acquitted by a jury in July 2013 of second-degree murder.
 
If he had been a sworn officer, federal prosecutors would have the option of pursuing "color of law" charges against Zimmerman. It is this kind of federal case that could be brought against officers in recent contentious killings by white police officers of black suspects Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York.

U.S. & World

Stories that affect your life across the U.S. and around the world.

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