In Brief | Nation & World 9-19-13


Trajectory links Syrian military to attack

BEIRUT — The trajectory of rockets that delivered the nerve agent sarin in last month’s deadly attack is among the key evidence linking elite Syrian troops based in the mountains overlooking Damascus to the strike that killed hundreds of people, diplomats and human rights officials said Wednesday.

The Aug. 21 attack precipitated the crisis over Syria’s chemical weapons. The U.S. threatened a military strike against Syria, which led to a plan negotiated by Moscow and Washington under which the regime of President Bashar Assad is to abandon its chemical weapons stockpile.

A U.N. report released Monday confirmed chemical weapons were used, but did not ascribe blame.

The United States, Britain and France cited evidence in the report to declare Assad’s government responsible. Russia called the report “one-sided” and said it has “serious reason to suggest that this was a provocation” by the rebels fighting the Assad regime in Syria’s civil war.

The report, however, provided data suggesting chemical-loaded rockets that hit two Damascus suburbs were fired from the northwest, indicating they came from nearby mountains where the Syrian military is known to have major bases.

Ohio man pleads guilty after YouTube confession

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Confronted at a hospital by police who said he’d just killed a man, drunk driver Matthew Cordle was angry and in denial.

“He became very irate, and began yelling, he didn’t kill anyone, he didn’t do it, and he wasn’t going to give them any blood sample,” Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said Wednesday.

Sober and in recovery, Cordle had a change of heart. He decided to plead guilty as quickly as possible, and made an online video confessing to the crime. He didn’t waver from the position he took in the Sept. 3 video, and on Wednesday he made good on his pledge and pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide.

Submerged cars found in Okla. may solve two cold cases

SAYRE, Okla. — When three teenagers from this small Oklahoma town disappeared on their way to a high school football game in 1970, rumors swirled as to what happened to the trio.

Some thought the three had stumbled across a drug deal at a rural airstrip and been killed. Others said they might have run away to California.

“There have been theories from everybody,” said Dayva Spitzer, publisher of The Sayre Record newspaper and a longtime resident. “Everyone suspected foul play. … But every lead just went nowhere.”

Now authorities believe they have a key piece to the puzzle: A 1969 Camaro, just like the one the teens were driving, was pulled from a lake with the skeletal remains of three people inside.

And that wasn’t the only discovery. A second car containing remains, an early 1950s Chevrolet, was also recovered from Foss Lake. Custer County Sheriff Bruce Peoples believes it may solve another case in which two men and a woman disappeared a year before the teens vanished.

N. Korea willing to work to resume nuclear talks

HONG KONG — North Korea is willing to work with China to resume six-party talks aimed at curtailing its nuclear program, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan told China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a meeting Tuesday his country would work toward resumption of the talks “to fundamentally ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”

Kim was in China for a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the start of the six-party process, which aimed to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for aid.

The talks began after North Korea withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and stepped up efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The country has since tested three nuclear devices and extended its ballistic missiles’ range.

Afghan election official assassinated

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban killed a top election official in northern Afghanistan Wednesday, in an attack that many here saw as an early effort to disrupt the country’s looming presidential elections.

Two gunmen shot Amanullah Aman, the head of the Independent Election Commission in Kunduz province, as he walked to his office, according to local police officials. The Taliban announced in a Dari-language post on Twitter shortly after the attack that Aman “was killed by our Mujahideen.”

The killing sent a shock wave through the Independent Election Commission, which this week opened the registration process for presidential candidates. The election is scheduled for April 5 next year. President Hamid Karzai issued a statement Wednesday criticizing insurgents for attempting to derail the electoral process.

The election coincides with the final withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, which some worry could further destabilize the country. But Karzai and Nuristani iterated despite Taliban threats, the election will take place as planned.

Iran frees political activist, others

TEHRAN — In a sign Iran’s government is loosening its grip on domestic security, several political prisoners, including a prominent human rights lawyer, were released Wednesday.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer who had been accused of insulting the government, was among those freed. Her husband, Reza Khandan, notified news agencies of Sotoudeh’s release and posted the news on his Facebook page.

Sotoudeh had been convicted of acting against national security and spreading propaganda against the government. She was serving a six-year sentence that began in 2010.

She has defended several well-known political activists in Iranian courts and is a member of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, which was cofounded by the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

In all, 11 prisoners were freed Wednesday, including journalists and reformist politicians.

Clicking ‘Like’ on Facebook is protected free speech

RICHMOND, Va. — Clicking “Like” on Facebook is constitutionally protected free speech and can be considered the 21st century-equivalent of a campaign yard sign, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond reversed a lower court ruling that said merely “liking” a Facebook page was insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection.

Exactly what a “like” means — if anything — played a part in a Virginia case involving six people who say Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts fired them for supporting an opponent in his 2009 re-election bid, which he won. The workers sued, saying their First Amendment rights were violated.

Roberts said some of the workers were let go because he wanted to replace them with sworn deputies while others were fired because of poor performance or his belief that their actions “hindered the harmony and efficiency of the office.”

U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson in Norfolk ruled in April 2012 while public employees are allowed to speak as citizens on matters of public concern, clicking the “like” button does not amount to expressive speech. In other words, it’s not the same as actually writing out a message and posting it on the site.

By wire sources