In brief | Nation & world | 7-3-14


Lawyer for Libyan militant tells court she’s seen no evidence tying him to Benghazi attack

WASHINGTON — A lawyer for a Libyan militant charged in the 2012 Benghazi attacks said Wednesday that she had seen no evidence tying her client to the violence, but a judge nonetheless directed Ahmed Abu Khattala to remain in custody as the Justice Department builds its case against him.

The lawyer, Michelle Peterson, conceded that Abu Khattala had no reasonable chance of being released at the moment, given the terrorism-related charge he faces and his lack of ties to the United States. But she also argued that prosecutors had failed to show, in their broad and initial outlines of the case, that he was in any way connected to the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

The court appearance was the second in four days for Abu Khattala, who was captured more than two weeks ago by U.S. special forces and then transported to the United States aboard a Navy boat where federal agents interrogated him. He has pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiring to provide support to terrorists, a crime punishable by up to life in prison, but the Justice Department has said it expects to bring additional charges soon that could reveal more information about the case.

With July 4th on horizon, North Carolina, other areas keep an eye on tropical storm’s path

CHARLESTON, S.C. — As one of the year’s busiest travel weekends approaches, so does another visitor: Tropical Storm Arthur, expected to grow into a hurricane by the Fourth of July and hit most harshly at North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a popular getaway spot of thin barrier islands along the shore.

The first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season prompted a hurricane warning for a wide swath of the North Carolina coast and had officials, hotel owners and would-be vacationers as far north as New England carefully watching forecasts.

The Outer Banks will be especially vulnerable, forecasters said. The area’s tourism agency expects about 250,000 people to travel there and stay in hotels and rental homes for the long holiday weekend.

Studies that reported simple way to make stem cells withdrawn after ‘extensive’ errors found

NEW YORK — U.S. and Japanese scientists who reported that they’d found a startlingly simple way to make stem cells withdrew that claim Wednesday, admitting to “extensive” errors in the research.

In two papers published in January in the journal Nature, the researchers said that they’d been able to transform ordinary mouse cells into versatile stem cells by exposing them to a mildly acidic environment. Someday, scientists hope to harness stem cells to grow replacement tissue for treating a variety of diseases.

While researchers have long been able to perform such transformations with a different method, the newly reported technique was far simpler, and the papers caused a sensation — and some skepticism — in the research community. They were also widely reported in the media, including by The Associated Press.

But before long, the government-funded Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Japan accused one of its scientists, Haruko Obokata, of falsifying data in the research. Obokata, the key author of the papers, defended the results during a televised news conference in April while apologizing for using wrong and altered images in the published reports. She also said she opposed withdrawing the papers, a process called retraction, and the 30-year-old attributed her mistakes to inexperience.

On Wednesday, Nature released a statement from Obokata and the other authors of the papers that retracted the papers, a rare occurrence for the prestigious journal. The scientists acknowledged “extensive” errors that meant “we are unable to say without a doubt” that the method works. They noted that studies of the simpler method are still going on by other researchers.

Hong Kong police clear hundreds from disorderly protest highlighting rising fears about China

HONG KONG — In a rare scene of disorder, Hong Kong authorities cleared out hundreds of protesters who blocked part of the city’s financial district early Wednesday, a high-profile reflection of rising anxiety over Beijing’s tightening grip on the little enclave of incomplete democracy at the southeastern edge of Communist China.

Police arrested 511 people who staged an unauthorized overnight sit-in on an avenue running through the heart of the city after a rally the day before in which tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in the streets to push for the right to elect their leader free of limits Beijing wants to impose.

The protest’s messy aftermath is the latest sign of worries that, with Hong Kong only a third of the way through a 50-year period in which mainland China is supposed to stay largely hands-off from the city’s affairs, Beijing is failing to keep its end of the bargain.

US ship Cape Ray leaves Italian port to destroy Syrian chemical weapons at sea

GIOIA TAURO, Italy — A United States cargo vessel loaded with hundreds of tons of Syria’s chemical weapons left an Italian port Wednesday to destroy the arms at sea as part of the international effort to rid Syria of its chemical weapon stockpile.

The MV Cape Ray steamed out of the southern Italian port of Gioia Tauro after a 12-hour operation to transfer the chemicals from a Danish ship, the Ark Futura.

It is expected to head into the open sea where it will neutralize the chemicals — including mustard gas and the raw materials for sarin nerve gas — with special machinery outfitted in its cargo hold.

By wire sources