Suspect arrested in Mississippi killing of eight people: newspaper | Reuters

NEW YORK A Mississippi sheriff’s deputy and seven other people were killed in multiple locations in rural Lincoln County before a suspect was taken into custody by police, a local newspaper reported on Sunday.

Authorities have not released the identities of the victims or the suspect, The Clarion-Ledger reported.

The newspaper’s website features a video clip of a man in handcuffs sitting in a road, surrounded by officers. The man, identified as the suspect, tells an interviewer that he was attempting to commit “suicide by cop.” He said he had been arguing with relatives about “taking my children home” before they called the police on him.

Representatives of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant called the killings a “senseless tragedy” in a statement.

“Every day, the men and women who wear the badge make some measure of sacrifice to protect and serve their communities,” his statement said. “Too often, we lose one of our finest.”

Lincoln County is a mostly rural area near Mississippi’s southern border with Louisiana, about 65 miles south of Jackson, the state’s capital.

(Reporting By Frank McGurty in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Nick Zieminski)

U.S. says Hezbollah associate pleads guilty to money laundering conspiracy | Reuters

(This story has been refiled to fix garble at start of quote in fourth paragraph)

By Jonathan Stempel

U.S. prosecutors said Joseph Asmar, 43, of Beirut, entered his plea at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Eric Vitaliano.

Asmar had been arrested in Paris in October 2015, and was extradited to the United States 14 months later. He had also faced a money laundering charge.

Aaron Altman, a lawyer for Asmar, said in an email: “Joseph Asmar has taken responsibility for his actions and is anxious to move forward with his life. More than anything, he misses his family and prays that they will be reunited in the near future.”

Hezbollah is a Shi’ite Islamist political and military group in Lebanon that the U.S. Department of State designates as a foreign terrorist organization.

Asmar was charged following what prosecutors called a two-year sting operation in which he and a Lebanese businesswoman, Iman Kobeissi, had meetings with an undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent posing as a trafficker.

Prosecutors said Asmar claimed to be an attorney who boasted that his connections at European and Middle Eastern banks enabled him to launder money, and that he could use his Hezbollah connections to provide security for drug shipments.

Undercover agents provided $400,000 in alleged drug proceeds to Asmar and his co-conspirators, who laundered the money in exchange for a commission, prosecutors said.

Asmar faces up to 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set. Kobeissi’s case is still pending.

The case is U.S. v. Asmar, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 15-cr-00491.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in Chicago; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Two men killed in Portland after trying to stop in anti-Muslim rant: police | Reuters

The incident unfolded on a commuter train hours before the start of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month, when most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims observe a religious fast.

The attack began shortly before 4:30 p.m. when a man started yelling ethnic and religious slurs toward two women who appeared to be Muslim on a MAX train at the Hollywood Transit Station, the Portland Police Department said in a statement.

Three men who intervened were stabbed, two fatally. The attacker was arrested shortly after he got off the train, police said, adding that the women left the scene before police could interview them.

“In the midst of his ranting and raving, some people approached him and appeared to try to intervene with his behavior and some of the people that he was yelling at,” Portland police spokesman Pete Simpson said during a news conference aired by local news outlets.

“They were attacked viciously by the suspect,” he added.

In a statement responding to Friday’s attack, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said that anti-Muslim incidents increased by more than 50 percent in the United States from 2015 to 2016 due in part to President Donald Trump’s focus on militant Islamist groups and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

“President Trump must speak out personally against the rising tide of Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry and racism in our nation that he has provoked through his numerous statements, policies and appointments that have negatively impacted minority communities,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

The administration says that while it strongly opposes Islamist militants, it has no quarrel with Islam.

Following the attack, police said one of the men died at the scene while another died at a hospital. The third man was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

“These were folks just riding the train and unfortunately got caught up in this,” he said.

Witnesses told police that the two young women were possibly Muslim. One wore a hijab.

Portland police did not identify the suspect or the victims.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Judge overturns life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo | Reuters

Lee Boyd Malvo, 32, was one of two men found guilty in the series of sniper shootings in the fall of 2002 that killed 10 people, wounded three others and left residents of Washington, D.C. suburbs traumatized.

His co-defendant, John Allen Muhammad, was sentenced to death and executed in 2009.

Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such sentences unconstitutional for juveniles and later found that the ruling should be applied retroactively.

U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson cited that Supreme Court decision in ordering that Malvo be re-sentenced, the Post reported.

The ruling does not affect Malvo’s convictions or the six life sentences that he was given in Maryland, the paper reported, although his attorneys are appealing those as well.

In the years following his conviction Malvo said he was sexually abused by Muhammad from the age of 15 until the time they embarked on the shooting spree from inside a blue Chevrolet Caprice.

They were arrested in October, 2002 after police discovered the pair sleeping in the car at a rest stop in Maryland.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Republican wins Montana special election despite assault charge | Reuters

By Justin Mitchell
| BOZEMAN, Mont.

BOZEMAN, Mont. Republican Greg Gianforte defeated a political novice to win Montana’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, barely 24 hours after he was charged with assaulting a reporter who asked him about the Republican healthcare bill.

A race that was expected to be a test of President Donald Trump’s political influence ahead of next year’s U.S. congressional elections was jolted by the charge against Gianforte, a wealthy technology executive who had urged voters to send him to Congress to help Trump.

Speaking to cheering supporters in Bozeman after his win, Gianforte apologized for the incident and said he was not proud of his actions.

“I should not have responded the way I did, and for that I’m sorry,” Gianforte said. “I should not have treated that reporter that way.”

Gianforte beat Democrat Rob Quist, a banjo player and first-time candidate who had focused his campaign on criticism of the Republican effort to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law. CNN projected Gianforte would win. With 96 percent of the vote counted, he led Quist by 51 percent to 43 percent.

Gianforte prevailed despite being charged on Wednesday night with misdemeanor assault on Ben Jacobs, a political correspondent for the U.S. edition of the Guardian newspaper, who said the candidate “body-slammed” him during a campaign event in Bozeman.

Gianforte’s victory is a boost for Republicans, who are worried Trump’s political stumbles and the unpopularity of the healthcare bill passed by the House will hurt their chances of holding on to a 24-seat House majority in next year’s elections.

But the relatively close margin of the race in Republican-leaning Montana was encouraging to Democrats, who are already focused on next month’s hotly contested special House election in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.

Gianforte had been favored to win in Montana, where Republicans have held the lone House seat for two decades and where Trump won by more than 20 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election.

The race had grown closer in the last week, however, as Quist focused on criticism of the House healthcare bill.

Quist, wearing his signature cowboy hat, told supporters in Missoula, Montana, that the grassroots energy of his campaign would continue.

“I know that Montanans will hold Mr Gianforte accountable,” Quist said.


It was unclear if Gianforte’s assault had an impact on the vote. More than a third of the state’s registered voters had already submitted ballots before it happened, state election officials said, and some Gianforte supporters shrugged off the charges or said they did not believe published accounts.

“I feel like, it’s all just propaganda, you know what I mean, it’s hard for me to believe anything the media tells me,” said Nathaniel Trumper, who cast a vote for Gianforte at a polling station in Helena.

The assault occurred as Jacobs tried to ask Gianforte about healthcare, according to an audio tape. Fox News Channel reporter Alicia Acuna, who was preparing to interview Gianforte, said the candidate “grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him to the ground.”

Afterward, three state newspapers rescinded their endorsements of Gianforte. Some Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, suggested he apologize.

Gianforte specifically addressed his apology to Jacobs. “Last night I made a mistake,” he said, adding: “I’m sorry, Mr Ben Jacobs.”

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called Gianforte’s apology “a good first step toward redemption” and said she hoped he “continues to work toward righting his wrong.”

Gianforte will take the House seat vacated when Trump named Ryan Zinke as secretary of the interior.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence recorded robocalls to voters on Gianforte’s behalf, and Republican groups poured millions into ads criticizing Quist for property tax liens and unpaid debts, which Quist said stemmed from a botched gallbladder surgery.

Quist, who raised more than $6 million for his upstart bid, said the experience gave him insight into the economic struggles some people face. He campaigned last weekend with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who won the state’s 2016 Democratic presidential primary against Hillary Clinton.

Gianforte could face additional, more serious charges once prosecutors review the evidence, Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert told Reuters.

Gianforte has two weeks to enter a plea to the misdemeanor citation issued by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, according to Lambert, who said he would likely review the case before then to decide whether it should be treated as a felony offense, which would supersede the current charge.

“There’s always the possibility that when we get the case and the details, that we might look differently at the charging decision,” Lambert said.

(Writing by John Whitesides; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell in Washington; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Protest in New York over Palestinian-American graduation speaker | Reuters

NEW YORK Dozens of right-wing demonstrators, including far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, gathered in New York on Thursday to protest a university’s decision to invite a Palestinian-American activist to deliver its graduation speech next week.

The City University of New York’s (CUNY) Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, which will have its commencement on Tuesday, described liberal, Muslim speaker Linda Sarsour on its website as a “powerful public health and social justice” leader.

Protesters in midtown Manhattan chanted and marched under rainfall to criticize the school’s choice of Sarsour, 37, an organizer of this year’s Women’s March on Washington who has drawn fire from conservatives for her opposition to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, among other issues.

Yiannopoulos, 32,said she should be allowed to speak but should be held accountable for actions he considered anti-American.

“Working underneath all of that sweaty polyester is a mind that hates America,” Yiannopoulos said of Sarsour, who wears a hijab head covering.

A representative for Sarsour did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Demonstrations against both liberal and conservative speakers on university campuses has been a growing trend in the United States.

In April, conservative commentator Ann Coulter said she had scrapped plans to speak at the University of California at Berkeley in defiance of campus officials, who had barred her original engagement out of concerns about inciting violent protests. [nL1N1HY1DV]

In February, protesters at Berkeley started fires, broke windows and clashed with police, forcing Yiannopoulos, then a senior editor for the conservative Breitbart News website, to call off his appearance.

Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter for abuse and harassment of Saturday Night Live actress Leslie Jones in July 2016.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Alabama murderer seeks to avoid execution for eighth time | Reuters

Tommy Arthur’s lethal injection is scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT (7 p.m. ET) in Atmore, Alabama. He maintains his innocence after more than three decades on death row for the 1982 murder of his girlfriend’s husband.

Three juries have found him guilty of shooting Troy Wicker to death as he slept. Two convictions were overturned on constitutional grounds. After his third conviction in 1991, Arthur asked the jury to sentence him to death, allowing more time with his children during prison visits and a private cell.

He has been fighting his punishment since.

“Until I take my last breath, I’ll have hope,” Arthur told NBC News in an interview last week. “I don’t know how to give up.”

In November, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed Arthur’s last scheduled execution to consider his argument that Alabama’s lethal injection procedures amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

In February, the court declined to hear Arthur’s appeal.

The case focused on Alabama’s use of the sedative midazolam. Examples of the drug’s inability to render executions painless are increasing, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in a dissent, writing that Arthur “has amassed significant evidence that Alabama’s current lethal injection protocol will result in intolerable and needless agony.”

In a new round of appeals, Arthur claims Alabama in December injected death row inmate Ronald Smith with painful execution drugs while Smith was still conscious.

Alabama “plans to do the same to Mr. Arthur,” his lawyers said in an appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

State attorneys said medical evidence backs the protocol.

“While Arthur cherry-picks a few of these executions to seize on exaggerated accounts of movement or labored breathing, he wholly ignores the overwhelmingly majority of these executions, which by all accounts were unremarkable and proceeded smoothly,” the state said in court filings this week.

No physical evidence links Arthur to the murder, and Alabama has refused to allow DNA testing of a wig worn by the killer, his lawyers also have noted.

Arthur would be the 12th person executed this year in the United States and the first in Alabama, the Death Penalty Information Center said.

(Reporting by David Beasley in Atlanta; Editing by Letitia Stein and Lisa Shumaker)

Vermont governor snuffs legal pot, tells lawmakers to ‘get it right’ | Reuters

In vetoing the measure to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug for adults and to pave the way for a regulated market in the state, Republican Governor Phil Scott stressed he was not philosophically opposed to the concept, which he said he views “through a libertarian lens.”

But in an effort to “get it right,” he said the bill needs to improve protections for children and motorists.

“I want to reiterate that we can all work together on this issue in a thoughtful and responsible way,” the governor said at his weekly news conference in Montpelier.

Scott said the bill should “make clear” that there will be no change in current penalties for giving or selling the drug to minors under 21 or near schools, and it should have stiffer penalties for smoking marijuana while driving or in front of children.

The Marijuana Regulatory Commission the bill would create needs to include police, health and tax collecting representatives, and should be responsible for coming up with impairment limits for drivers, testing mechanisms, and education and prevention programs for minors, he added.

“If the legislature agrees to make the changes I am seeking, we can move this discussion forward in a way that ensures the public health and safety of our communities and our children continues to come first,” said Scott.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group, said it was disappointed, but held out hope that the governor and legislators would reach a compromise.

“Most Vermonters want to end marijuana prohibition, and it is critical that the legislature respond by passing a revised legalization bill this summer,” said Matt Simon, the group’s New England political director.

The bill, which won the approval of the state’s House of Representatives 79-66 and the state Senate 20-9, both of which are controlled by Democrats, would have made Vermont the first state to legalize recreational marijuana legislatively, instead of by popular referendum.

Of the eight states and the District of Columbia that have legalized recreational marijuana, two – Massachusetts and Maine – are nearby, while Canada, to Vermont’s north, is considering legalization. Marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Newark, N.J. airport reopens after United Airlines engine fire | Reuters

United Airlines Flight 1579, a Boeing 757, was on a taxiway bound for San Francisco at about 9 p.m. when the flames were spotted coming from its right-side engine, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a written statement.

United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said the aircraft was notified of the apparent fire by the control tower and one person suffered an ankle injury while evacuating.

Five people suffered minor injuries during the incident and travelers should expect delays through the night, an airport spokesman told Reuters in an email.

Guerin said there were 124 passengers and seven crew aboard the plane. The passengers were ferried back to the terminal and would be put on later flights, he added.

The FAA said it would investigate the incident.

Flight tracking website said all inbound flights were being held at Newark until at least 11 p.m and advised passengers of delays of up to 90 minutes because of taxiway congestion.

(This story corrects headline to make clear airport reopened.)

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Clarence Fernandez)

Uber inadvertently underpaid New York City drivers for over two years | Reuters

Uber generally takes a commission from its drivers after deducting taxes and some fees, but it instead took a higher percentage from its New York City drivers using the full fare before accounting for sales taxes and fees, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news.

Uber usually takes a 25 percent commission from U.S. drivers under a November 2014 nationwide driver agreement, the report said.

The company could pay drivers back at least $45 million, averaging at about $900 per driver, the Journal reported.

“We are committed to paying every driver every penny they are owed – plus interest – as quickly as possible,” Rachel Holt, Uber’s regional general manager for U.S. and Canada, said via email.

All New York City drivers under the 2014 agreement would be eligible for a refund, regardless of whether they are still active or not, as long as they completed an Uber ride, the Journal report said.

The Independent Drivers Guild, which represents 50,000 drivers in New York City, on Tuesday called on regulators to investigate the payments practices of Uber and other ride-hailing apps.

The guild, in a statement, also called for an investigation into Uber’s use of the “upfront pricing” feature, which guarantees customers a certain fare before they book a ride.

Drivers have complained that the feature short-changes them while Uber gets the difference, the guild, which was set up last year with Uber’s help, said.

In January, Uber agreed to pay $20 million to settle claims by the U.S. government that it exaggerated prospective earnings in seeking to recruit drivers and that it downplayed the costs of buying or leasing a car.

Uber has been hit with a number of setbacks lately, including accusations of sexual harassment from a former female employee and a video showing Chief Executive Travis Kalanick harshly berating an Uber driver.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal and Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru and Heather Somerville in San Francisco; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar)