Saturday, February 9, 2013

Published:

Fugitive's online rant puts spotlight on changes at LAPD since King beating, O.J. Simpson case

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Fugitive ex-Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner's claim in an online "manifesto" that his career was undone by racist colleagues conspiring against him comes at a time when it's widely held that the police department has evolved well beyond the troubled racial legacy of Rodney King and the O.J. Simpson trial.

Dorner, who is suspected in a string of vengeance killings, has depicted himself as a black man wronged, whose badge was unjustly taken in 2008 after he lodged a complaint against a white female supervisor.

"It is clear as day that the department retaliated toward me," Dorner said in online writings authorities have attributed to him. Racism and officer abuses, he argued, have not improved at LAPD since the King beating but have "gotten worse."

Dorner's problems at the LAPD, which ended with his dismissal, played out without public notice more than four years ago, as the department gradually emerged from federal oversight following a corruption scandal. At the time, the officer ranks were growing more diverse and then-Chief William Bratton was working hard to mend relations with long-skeptical minorities.

"This is no longer your father's LAPD," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared in 2009, after the federal clampdown was ended.

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NY Fashion Week crowd leaves clapping behind, too busy playing with their smartphones

NEW YORK (AP) -- Remember clapping? As in when a fashion designer puts on his runway finale and then takes a bow before an adoring crowd.

The fashion hordes these days are way too busy tweeting, Instagramming and taking video with their smartphones to put those busy hands together. But more often than not, so are the fashion houses.

Technology has taken over in important ways for designers and was ready made for this New York Fashion Week as the huge storm had the elite teetering around Manhattan in blowing snow, clutching those phones.

Audiences had already been on the bandwagon, taking phone pics from their seats and posting reviews online before the models were off the runway, but designers are figuring out how to use all the instant feedback to their advantage.

Before the snow hit, information went out to retailers, editors, stylists and bloggers on how to view the Donna Karan and Helmut Lang shows online and through phone apps for those unable to attend in person.

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The big dig-out: New England, NY clobbered with 1 to 3 feet of snow; 'Like lifting cement'

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- New Englanders began the back-breaking job of digging out from as much as 3 feet of snow Saturday and emergency crews used snowmobiles to reach shivering motorists stranded overnight on New York's Long Island after a howling storm swept through the Northeast.

About 650,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity, and some could be cold and dark for days. Many roads across the New York-to-Boston corridor of roughly 25 million people were impassable. Cars were entombed by drifts. And some people woke up in the morning to find the snow packed so high they couldn't get their doors open.

"It's like lifting cement. They say it's 2 feet, but I think it's more like 3 feet," said Michael Levesque, who was shoveling snow in Quincy, Mass., as part of a work crew for a landscaping company.

At least four deaths in the U.S. were blamed on the overnight snowstorm, including an 11-year-old boy in Boston who was overcome by carbon monoxide as he sat in a running car to keep warm while his father shoveled Saturday morning.

In Providence, Jason Harrison had been working for nearly three hours to clear 3 feet of snow that blocked his driveway and front walk and still had more work to do. His snowblower, he said, "has already paid for itself."

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Shoveling, cross-country skiing, getting married or having a drink: tales from a snowstorm

From New Jersey to Maine, millions of people, many with Superstorm Sandy still fresh in their minds, dug out from underneath mounds of snow Saturday.

Many were left with serious consequences. Hundreds of thousands lost power, and on New York's Long Island, abandoned cars littered the roadways, left by people who could not make it home Friday night as the storm intensified.

Others simply had a few inches to clear from their cars and sidewalks. But mostly, people soldiered on, planning cocktail hours after clearing waist-high snow, cross-country skiing down narrow streets and even braving 4-inch stiletto heels to stay chic during New York Fashion Week. A few of their stories:

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Randle Roper and Jacob Olson have been waiting for a blizzard for a long, long time.

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10 Things to Know about the big Northeast storm

1. MORE THAN 650,000 LOST POWER IN NEW ENGLAND

Even the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Mass., had to shut down and turn to backup generators.

2. GUSTS HIT 82 MPH, BUT OUTAGES COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE

With leaves gone, damage to power lines from falling branches was less than it might have been.

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Stuck in snow: Hundreds stranded on NY roads; mom fears for life, writes last words to family

FARMINGVILLE, N.Y. (AP) -- Stranded for hours on a snow-covered road, Priscilla Arena prayed, took out a sheet of loose-leaf paper and wrote what she thought might be her last words to her husband and children.

She told her 9 1/2-year-old daughter, Sophia, she was "picture-perfect beautiful." And she advised her 5 ½-year-old son, John: "Remember all the things that mommy taught you. Never say you hate someone you love. Take pride in the things you do, especially your family. ... Don't get angry at the small things; it's a waste of precious time and energy. Realize that all people are different, but most people are good. "

"My love will never die -- remember, always," she added.

Arena, who was rescued in an Army canvas truck after about 12 hours, was one of hundreds of drivers who spent a fearful, chilly night stuck on highways in a massive snowstorm that plastered New York's Long Island with more than 30 inches of snow, its ferocity taking many by surprise despite warnings to stay off the roads.

Even snowplows were mired in the snow or blocked by stuck cars, so emergency workers had to resort to snowmobiles to try to reach motorists. With many still stranded hours after the snow stopped, Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged other communities to send plows to help dig out in eastern Long Island, which took the state's hardest hit by far in the massive Northeast storm.

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Fear of assassinations haunt opposition in Egypt, fueled by Tunisia killing, fatwas

CAIRO (AP) -- Watching the events in Tunisia, where a leading anti-Islamist politician was shot to death this past week, members of Egypt's liberal opposition are fearfully asking: Could it happen here too?

Their fears of a renegade Islamist attack on any of the top opposition leaders have been hiked by religious edicts issued by hardline clerics on TV saying they must be killed. But even before those edicts, activists have been worried by signs they say show that ruling Islamists are starting to target their ranks -- disappearances of activists from protests, telephone death threats, warnings from security officials.

Some in the opposition say there's no sure proof of a campaign, just worrisome patterns. But the fears point to how agitated the atmosphere has become in Egypt, with tempers hiked on both sides. The mainly liberal and secular opposition accuses Islamist President Mohammed Morsi of unleashing security forces to crush their protests against him. In turn, many Islamist backers of the president are convinced that the opposition is trying to topple a democratically elected leader by force.

In that environment, an assassination against a top opposition figure like that of Tunisia's Chokri Belaid could be explosive.

Authorities appear to recognize the potential danger. The government increased security at the homes of Egypt's top opposition figures, including Mohamed ElBaradei, a senior figure in the National Salvation Front. On Saturday, there was a startling moment when ElBaradei was getting into vehicle, tightly surrounded by bodyguards, and a middle aged man pushed toward him, shouting hysterically, "You'll wreck Egypt, you'll wreck Egypt" before guards pulled him aside.

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Chicago remembers 15-year-old girl whose slaying drew attention to city's gun violence

CHICAGO (AP) -- Hundreds of mourners and dignitaries including first lady Michelle Obama packed the funeral service Saturday for a Chicago teen whose killing catapulted her into the nation's debate over gun violence.

Yet, one speaker after another remembered 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton not so much as a symbol but as a best friend, an excellent student with big dreams and simply a girl with a great smile and bubbly personality. They said she was a typical teen who wanted to borrow her friends' clothes and who never left home without her lip gloss.

And to her mother, Pendleton was the daughter she tried to keep busy so she'd be beyond the reach of the city's seemingly endless gang violence.

"You don't know how hard this really is, and those of you who do know how hard this really is, I'm sorry. I'm sorry," Cleopatra Pendleton told the packed South Side church. "No mother, no father should ever have to experience this."

Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed Jan. 29 as she stood with friends at a neighborhood park about a mile from President Barack Obama's Chicago home in the Kenwood neighborhood. Just days before, the band majorette was among the performers during events for Obama's inauguration. Police say Pendleton was an innocent victim in a gang-related shooting.

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Fighting rages in Syrian capital as rebels lay the groundwork for long fight over Damascus

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian troops backed by warplanes battled rebels for control of a key highway in Damascus Saturday, a day after opposition forces cut the strategic artery as part of what they say are efforts to lay the groundwork for an eventual assault on the heavily defended capital.

Rebels have been on the offensive in Damascus since launching a series of attacks on government positions on Wednesday. They brought their fight to within a mile of the heart of the capital on Friday, seizing army checkpoints and cutting a key highway as they pressed their campaign for the city, the seat of President Bashar Assad's power.

The fighting is the heaviest to hit Damascus since July, when a first rebel assault managed to capture several neighborhoods before a punishing government counteroffensive. After that rebel foray, the regime quickly reasserted its control over the city, which has spared Damascus much of the violence and destruction that the civil war has wrought on other major urban centers.

Both the rebels and the government consider the fight for Damascus the most likely endgame in a civil war that has already killed more than 60,000 people. The city is heavily fortified and dotted with armed checkpoints, and activists say it is surrounded with three of the most loyal divisions of the army, including the Republican Guard and the feared 4th Division, commanded by Assad's brother Maher.

The latest Damascus offensive did not appear to be coordinated with rebels on other sides of the capital, and it was unclear whether the opposition fighters would be able to hold their ground.

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In the side of a dune in Timbuktu, bodies of 2 Arab men, latest sign of reprisal killings

TIMBUKTU, Mali (AP) -- The bodies are buried here, in the side of a dune less than a mile outside this desert capital, dumped out of sight in a forgotten and uninhabited zone.

Except the wind undressed the grave.

It threw off the blanket of yellow sand to reveal a white piece of clothing. Soon the children of the shepherds who spend their days roaming the dunes with their flocks began talking about the two men buried there.

By the time journalists were led to the shallow grave 11 days after the two were last seen, the desert dwellers knew their entire biography: their names, their professions, the fact that they had been arrested by Malian soldiers on the same day that the French took control of Timbuktu from Islamic extremists. Most importantly, they knew their ethnic group -- both were Arab.

Their deaths, as pieced together by The Associated Press from interviews with family members, residents and witnesses, as well as from an examination of the bodies, strongly suggest the two were taken away and shot dead by Malian forces, in reprisal against the city's Arab minority.