Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Chavez's successor in Venezuela: Nicolas Maduro

Vice President Nicolas Maduro is taking over leadership of Hugo Chavez's political movement after the socialist leader died Tuesday at age 58 following a nearly two-year bout with cancer. Maduro now faces the daunting task of rallying support in a deeply divided country while maintaining unity within his party's ranks. Maduro decidedly lacks the vibrant personality that made Chavez a one-man political phenomenon in Venezuela, but he has the advantage of being Chavez's hand-picked successor. The mustachioed 50-year-old former bus driver won Chavez's trust as a loyal spokesman who echoed the president's stances. How Maduro will lead in Chavez's absence remains to be seen, although he's widely known as both a skilled negotiator and a leader who views upholding his mentor's legacy as his personal crusade and responsibility. One of the biggest tasks Maduro will likely face is attempting to hold together a diverse movement that includes radical leftists, moderates and many current and former military officers. Analysts have speculated that differences might emerge between factions led by Maduro and Diosdado Cabello, the influential National Assembly president who is thought to wield power within the military. But thus far both men have denied such divisions and vowed to remain united. After Chavez's Dec. 11 cancer surgery, Maduro stepped up his public appearances to fill the void, providing regular updates on the president's condition, calling for unity among allies and lambasting the opposition. Maduro also showed how he could attempt to continue Chavez's socialist-inspired project. Speaking at one December rally, he vowed in vague terms to maintain policies that have angered the country's leading business federation, Fedecamaras, which was long at odds with the president. "We aren't going to give dollars to Fedecamaras. What we're going to give them is pains, headaches with this Bolivarian Revolution," Maduro shouted, his voice hoarse. "I swear to you ... we're never going to betray the people of Venezuela!" Chavez's deteriorating health led him on Dec. 8 to announce Maduro as his chosen successor. He said that if his illness prevented him from being sworn in on Jan. 10, government supporters should rally around Maduro and elect him president. Maduro is expected to keep promoting programs such as free medical clinics staffed by Cuban doctors and subsidized food stores, which have endeared the president with the country's vast numbers of poor. Maduro has vowed to block a return to past policies that he said had benefited the wealthy. "Our people will never again see the bourgeoisie plundering this country," Maduro said, adding, "Better to be dead than traitors to the people and to Chavez!" That loyalty made Maduro a logical choice, political observers said. "Maduro combines two characteristics that influenced Chavez in his decision to designate him as successor: first, his loyalty to the party leadership, and second, his positions in favor of popular measures," such as social programs for the poor, said Steve Ellner, a political scientist at Venezuela's University of Oriente. In his youth, Maduro drove a bus for the Caracas Metro transit system and later became a union leader. It's unclear when Maduro and Chavez first met. But Chavez is thought to have first gotten to know Maduro in the 1980s, when Chavez was a lieutenant colonel and began a clandestine movement of disgruntled military officers that eventually carried out a failed coup attempt in 1992. Chavez was jailed on military rebellion charges and then released in 1994 when he was pardoned. Maduro went on to become a leading member of Chavez's nascent political movement, growing closer to the budding politician and also getting to know Cilia Flores, who is now attorney general and was Chavez's defense attorney following his arrest for the 1992 coup attempt. After Chavez was elected president in 1998, Maduro was selected to join a special assembly to draft a new constitution. He was later elected to the National Assembly and then became president of the legislature. Maduro was named foreign minister in 2006 and oversaw international efforts such as consolidating the regional diplomatic blocs ALBA and Unasur, strengthening relations with countries such as Russia, Iran and China, and overseeing a rapprochement with U.S.-allied Colombia. He is thought to maintain close ties with Cuba's government. Maduro "is perceived by Chavez as a negotiator with diplomatic skills who could potentially gather the support of the different factions and keep it united in the difficult months ahead," said Diego Moya-Ocampos, an analyst with the London-based consulting firm IHS Global Insight. "Nevertheless, he is not necessarily perceived as such within all the top ranks of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela and the armed forces," Moya-Ocampos added. Jennifer McCoy, a political science professor at Georgia State University, described Maduro as an easygoing man who has shown a willingness to talk with government opponents. "He's always been someone who is easy to talk to," said McCoy, director of the Americas program at the Carter Center, which helped the Organization of American States facilitate dialogue between the government and opposition after a 2002 coup that briefly ousted Chavez. Maduro was always willing "to discuss the issues, and I think that's really important going forward for Venezuela," McCoy said. Before Chavez underwent his latest operation in December, he explained why he had chosen Maduro: "He's one of the young leaders with the greatest ability to continue, if I'm unable to — God knows what he does — if I'm unable to, to continue with his firm hand, with his gaze, with his heart of a man of the people, with his gift for people, with his intelligence, with the international recognition he's earned, with his leadership, leading the presidency."

Venezuela's Chavez dies, officials call for unity

Some in anguish, some in fear, Venezuelans raced for home and stocked up on food and water Tuesday after the government announced the death of President Hugo Chavez, the larger-than-life firebrand socialist who led the nation for 14 years. Vice President Nicolas Maduro's voice broke and tears ran down his face as he appeared on national television to announce that Chavez died at 4:25 p.m. local time (3:55 p.m. EST, 1755 GMT) "after battling hard against an illness over nearly two years." He did not say what exactly killed Chavez, although the government had announced the previous night that a severe new respiratory infection had severely weakened him. A few hours later, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua affirmed one of Chavez's final wishes: Maduro would be interim president and then be the ruling party's candidate to carry on Chavez's populist "revolution" in elections to be called within 30 days. It was a day fraught with mixed signals, some foreboding and some violent. Just a few hours before announcing Chavez's death, Maduro made a virulent speech against enemies he claimed were trying to undermine Venezuelan democracy. And he said two U.S. military attaches had been expelled for trying to destabilize the nation. In announcing the death of the former army paratrooper who wielded Venezuela's oil wealth to benefit the poor and win friends regionally, Maduro shifted tone. He called on Venezuelans to be "dignified heirs of the giant man" Chavez was. "Let there be no weakness, no violence. Let there be no hate. In our hearts there should only be one sentiment: Love. Love, peace and discipline." The government declared 7 days of mourning and closed all schools and universities until next Monday. All across downtown Caracas, shops and restaurants began to close and Venezuelans hustled for home, some even breaking into a run. Many people looked incredulous or anguished. "I feel a sorrow so big I can't speak," said Yamilina Barrios, a 39-year-old clerk who works in the Industry Ministry, her face covered in tears. "He was the best this country had." "I hope the country calms down and continues the work that he left us, continues in unity and the progress continues," Barrios said. Among the nervous was Maria Elena Lovera, a 45-year-old housewife. "I want to go home. People are crazy and are way too upset." There were several incidents of political violence. In one, a group of masked, helmeted men on motorcycles, some brandishing revolvers, attacked about 40 students who had been protesting for more than a week near the Supreme Court building to demand the government give more information about Chavez's health. The attackers, who didn't wear clothing identifying any political allegiance, burned the students' tents and scattered their food just minutes after the death was announced. "They burned everything we had," said student leader Gaby Arellano. She said she saw four of the attackers with pistols but none fired a shot. Outside the military hospital where Chavez's remains were visited by loved ones and confederates, an angry crowd attacked a Colombian TV reporter. "They beat us with helmets, with sticks, men, women, adults," Carmen Andrea Rengifo said on RCN TV. Video images showed her bleeding above the forehead but she was not seriously injured. Maduro and other government officials have recently railed against international media for allegedly reporting rumors about Chavez's health, though RCN was not among those stations criticized. After nightfall, several hundred people gathered at Bolivar Square, a symbolic place for Chavistas because it has a huge nine-meter-tall (30-foot-tall) statue of Simon Bolivar, the 19th century independence hero who Chavez claimed as his inspiration. Some arrived singing Venezuela's national anthem and holding up posters of Chavez. Many chanted "I am Chavez," which had been a campaign slogan of the president. One man began shouting through a megaphone a warning to the opposition: "They won't return." The crowd then joined in, chanting: "They won't return." Maduro, who had urged people to meet at the square, called on the opposition to respect "the people's pain." "Those who never supported the comandante Hugo Chavez, respect the pain of the people. This is the moment to think of our families, of our country." Chavez leaves behind a political movement firmly in control of the nation, but with some doubt about how a new leadership will be formed. Chavez's illness prevented him from taking the oath of office after he was re-elected to a new term on Oct. 7 and the constitution says the speaker of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, should take over as interim president under such circumstances. But Jaua said Maduro would assume the rule as that was Chavez's will. The man Chavez defeated in October, the youthful Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles, is widely expected to represent the opposition. Venezuela's defense minister appeared on television to announce that the military will remain loyal to the constitution in the wake of Chavez's death. Adm. Diego Molero appealed for "unity, tranquility and understanding" among Venezuelans. The announcement of Chavez's death stunned Venezuelans, if it did not surprise them. Earlier in the day, Maduro was more belligerent in tone as he announced the government had expelled two U.S. diplomats from the country and said "we have no doubt" that Chavez's cancer, which was first diagnosed in June 2011, was induced by "the historical enemies of our homeland." He compared the situation to the death of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, claiming Arafat was "inoculated with an illness." Chavez's inner circle has long claimed the United States was behind a failed 2002 attempt to overthrow him, and he has frequently played the anti-American card to stir up support. Venezuela has been without a U.S. ambassador since July 2010 and expelled another U.S. military officer in 2006. U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell rejected the assertion that the U.S. was trying to destabilize Venezuela and said it "leads us to conclude that, unfortunately, the current Venezuelan government is not interested in and improved relationship." Maduro has been taking on a larger role since Chavez urged Venezuelans to(continuous)

Devastated, mourning Chavez supporters pour onto streets

Grieving and stunned supporters of deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took to the streets on Tuesday weeping, chanting slogans and vowing to continue their hero's revolution. Gathering in streets and squares across the South American nation of 29 million people, backers of the socialist leader shouted: "Chavez lives forever!" and "The fight continues!" "We have to show that what he did was not in vain," said Jamila Rivas, 49, crying outside the military hospital where Chavez died. Hundreds of supporters flocked there. Venezuelans have been tracking the ups-and-downs of Chavez's two-year battle against cancer, but some supporters felt a sense of disbelief that the flamboyant leader was gone. "He was our father. 'Chavismo' will not end. We are his people. We will continue to fight!" said Nancy Jotiya, 56, in Caracas' downtown Bolivar Square, named for Venezuela's independence hero and Chavez's idol, Simon Bolivar. "I admired him. He was a great man," said housewife Aleida Rodriguez, 50, who heard the news as she emerged from Caracas' underground transport system. Venezuela's opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, offered condolences and called for unity. Some opponents could not hide their happiness at the end to a rule they viewed as a cruel dictatorship. "At last!" shouted some women, coming out of their homes in one upscale neighborhood. Hatred for Chavez ran deep among the wealthier members of Venezuela's population. Some openly celebrated his death on Twitter. There were reports of isolated incidents of looting and violence, including the burning of tents belonging to students who had been protesting in a Caracas street for the last week against secrecy over Chavez's condition. Around Latin America and the Caribbean, where Chavez's oil-fueled largesse was a source of support for various leftist governments, tributes and condolences poured in. Bolivian President Evo Morales, a close personal friend, wept as he spoke of Chavez. Brazil's Congress held a minute of silence. "President Chavez has always been a friend of Brazil, regardless of his political position," said Renan Calheiros, president of the Brazilian Senate. Colombia, whose pro-U.S. conservative governments have clashed fiercely with Chavez in the past, also paid homage. "I think in the last two years ... our relations with Venezuela advanced really well, and he was also a very important support for the current peace process," Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin said, referring to her government's rapprochement with Chavez and ongoing peace talks with leftist rebels. "Hopefully he'll find peace." Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien told CBC television he met Chavez several times, was quite fond of him, and acted as a facilitator between Chavez and former U.S. President George W. Bush at a 2001 Summit of the Americas. "He was a great baseball fan and player and he always told me that if I were to visit him in Venezuela we would go to a baseball field and he would throw balls to me for me to hit them," he said. "And we never had the occasion to do that."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Medicare paid $5.1B for poor nursing home care

Medicare paid billions in taxpayer dollars to nursing homes nationwide that were not meeting basic requirements to look after their residents, government investigators have found. The report, released Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general, said Medicare paid about $5.1 billion for patients to stay in skilled nursing facilities that failed to meet federal quality of care rules in 2009, in some cases resulting in dangerous and neglectful conditions. One out of every three times patients wound up in nursing homes that year, they landed in facilities that failed to follow basic care requirements laid out by the federal agency that administers Medicare, investigators estimated. By law, nursing homes need to write up care plans specially tailored for each resident, so doctors, nurses, therapists and all other caregivers are on the same page about how to help residents reach the highest possible levels of physical, mental and psychological well-being. Not only are residents often going without the crucial help they need, but the government could be spending taxpayer money on facilities that could endanger people's health, the report concluded. The findings come as concerns about health care quality and cost are garnering heightened attention as the Obama administration implements the nation's sweeping health care overhaul. "These findings raise concerns about what Medicare is paying for," the report said. Investigators estimate that in one out of five stays, patients' health problems weren't addressed in the care plans, falling far short of government directives. For example, one home made no plans to monitor a patient's use of two anti-psychotic drugs and one depression medication, even though the drugs could have serious side effects. In other cases, residents got therapy they didn't need, which the report said was in the nursing homes' financial interest because they would be reimbursed at a higher rate by Medicare. In one example, a patient kept getting physical and occupational therapy even though the care plan said all the health goals had been met, the report said. The Office of Inspector General's report was based on medical records from 190 patient visits to nursing homes in 42 states that lasted at least three weeks, which investigators said gave them a statistically valid sample of Medicare beneficiaries' experiences in skilled nursing facilities. That sample represents about 1.1 million patient visits to nursing homes nationwide in 2009, the most recent year for which data was available, according to the review. Overall, the review raises questions about whether the system is allowing homes to get paid for poor quality services that may be harming residents, investigators said, and recommended that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services tie payments to homes' abilities to meet basic care requirements. The report also recommended that the agency strengthen its regulations and ramp up its oversight. The review did not name individual homes, nor did it estimate the number of patients who had been mistreated, but instead looked at the overall number of stays in which problems arose. In response, the agency agreed that it should consider tying Medicare reimbursements to homes' provision of good care. CMS also said in written comments that it is reviewing its own regulations to improve enforcement at the homes. "Medicare has made significant changes to the way we pay providers thanks to the health care law, to reward better quality care," Medicare spokesman Brian Cook said in a statement to AP. "We are taking steps to make sure these facilities have the resources to improve the quality of their care, and make sure Medicare is paying for the quality of care that beneficiaries are entitled to." CMS hires state-level agencies to survey the homes and make sure they are complying with federal law, and can require correction plans, deny payment or end a contract with a home if major deficiencies come to light. The agency also said it would follow up on potential enforcement at the homes featured in the report. Greg Crist, a Washington-based spokeswoman for the American Health Care Association, which represents the largest share of skilled nursing facilities nationwide, said overall nursing home operators are well regulated and follow federal guidelines but added that he could not fully comment on the report's conclusions without having had the chance to read it. "Our members begin every treatment with the individual's personal health needs at the forefront. This is a hands-on process, involving doctors and even family members in an effort to enhance the health outcome of the patient," Crist said. Virginia Fichera, who has relatives in two nursing homes in New York, said she would welcome a greater push for accountability at skilled nursing facilities. "Once you're in a nursing home, if things don't go right, you're really a prisoner," said Fichera, a retired professor in Sterling, NY. "As a concerned relative, you just want to know the care is good, and if there are problems, why they are happening and when they'll be fixed." Once residents are ready to go back home or transfer to another facility, federal law also requires that the homes write special plans to make sure patients are safely discharged. Investigators found the homes didn't always do what was needed to ensure a smooth transition. In nearly one-third of cases, facilities also did not provide enough information when the patient moved to another setting, the report found.

Senate Dems' bill light on deficit cuts in 2013

White House-backed legislation in the Senate to replace $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts would raise the deficit through the end of the budget year by tens of billions of dollars, officials said late Wednesday as the two parties maneuvered for public support on economic issues. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that under the Democratic measure, deficits also would rise in each of the next two years before turning downward. Democratic officials had said earlier in the day their bill would spread one year's worth of anticipated savings — $85 billion — over a decade in an attempt to avoid damaging the shaky economic recovery. The legislation would cancel across-the-board cuts due to begin on Friday. Instead, it would eliminate payments to some farmers, enact defense reductions beginning in two years and impose tax increases, mostly on millionaires. White House spokesman Jay Carney recently told reporters at the White House the administration supports the measure. The Senate is expected to vote on Thursday on rival Democratic and Republican plans to replace the spending cuts, known in Washington-speak as a "sequester." Both bills are expected to fail. In an indication that across-the-board cuts are inevitable, President Barack Obama has set a meeting with congressional leaders for the day they take effect. While the administration has warned of severe cuts in government services as a result of the reductions, few, if any, are likely to be felt for several weeks. That could give the administration and lawmakers breathing room to negotiate a replacement, although Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said during the day there were limits to what could be negotiated. "We can either secure those reductions more intelligently, or we can do it the president's way with across-the board cuts. But one thing Americans simply will not accept is another tax increase to replace spending reductions we already agreed to," he said. Democrats said their proposal to replace across-the-board cuts was designed with the economy in mind. It "seeks the same amount of savings in a more responsible way" as the $85 billion in cuts that will otherwise take effect, said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "The impact on the economy is much better. Sequestration as constituted would hurt economic growth and destroy jobs," he added. Over a decade, the bill would cut deficits by an estimated $110 billion, half from higher taxes and half from the defense and farm program cuts. That is in keeping with Obama's call for a balanced approach that combines selected spending cuts with closing tax loopholes. Senate Democrats have been reluctant to spell out the details of their measure, although it is not clear if that results from its relatively small impact on the deficits through the end of the current budget year. Across the Capitol, though, the party's leaders have talked openly of their desire to spread the cuts in their replacement measure over a longer period. "It is entirely intentional," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and the party's senior member on the House Budget Committee. "The whole idea is to achieve the equivalent deficit reduction without hurting jobs and having disruption in the economy. You do that by having targeted cuts and eliminating tax loopholes over a longer period of time," he added. He said the Democrats' approach is the same as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's recommendation, which is to help the recovery gain strength before beginning to make cuts. In the Senate, Republicans have yet to disclose their own sequester replacement measure. Most of the rank and file favors an alternative that lets Obama adjust the cuts to minimize any impact on the public, but that approach has its critics among lawmakers who fear giving the White House that much authority.

As budget cuts loom, is government shutdown next?

With big, automatic budget cuts about to kick in, House Republicans are turning to mapping strategy for the next showdown just a month away, when a government shutdown instead of just a slowdown will be at stake. Both topics are sure to come up at the White House meeting Friday between President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders, including Republican House Speaker John Boehner. A breakthrough on replacing or easing the imminent across-the-board spending cuts still seems unlikely at the first face-to-face discussion between Obama and Republican leaders this year. To no one's surprise, even as a dysfunctional Washington appears incapable of averting a crisis over economy-rattling spending cuts, it may be lurching toward another over a possible shutdown. Republicans are planning for a vote next week on a bill to fund the day-to-day operations of the government through the Sept. 30 end of the 2013 fiscal year — while keeping in place the new $85 billion in cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies and 8 percent to the military. The need to keep the government's doors open and lights on — or else suffer the first government shutdown since 1996 — requires the GOP-dominated House and the Democratic-controlled Senate to agree. Right now they hardly see eye to eye. The House GOP plan, unveiled to the rank and file on Wednesday, would award the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs with their line-by-line budgets, for a more-targeted rather than indiscriminate batch of military cuts, but would deny domestic agencies the same treatment. And that has whipped up opposition from veteran Democratic senators on the Appropriations Committee. Domestic agencies would see their budgets frozen almost exactly as they are, which would mean no money for new initiatives such as cybersecurity or for routine increases for programs such as low-income housing. "We're not going to do that," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. "Of course not." Any agreement needs to pass through a gantlet of House tea party conservatives intent on preserving the across-the-board cuts and Senate Democrats pressing for action on domestic initiatives, even at the risk of creating a foot-tall catchall spending bill. There's also this: GOP leaders have calculated that the automatic cuts arriving on Friday need to be in place in order for them to be able to muster support from conservatives for the catchall spending bill to keep the government running. That's because many staunch conservatives want to preserve the cuts even as defense hawks and others fret about the harm that might do to the military and the economy. If the automatic cuts are dealt with before the government-wide funding bill gets a vote, there could be a conservative revolt. "The overall sequester levels must hold," said Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif. Little to no progress has been made so far between House and Senate leaders and the White House, and given the hard feelings engulfing Washington, there's no guarantee that this problem can be solved, even though the stakes — a shutdown of non-essential government programs after March 27 — carry more risk than the across-the-board cuts looming on Friday. The funding plan for the rest of the fiscal year will be a main topic at the White House meeting on Friday, the March 1 deadline day for averting the across-the-board cuts. Obama, speaking to a group of business executives Wednesday night, said the cuts would be a "tumble downward" for the economy, though he acknowledged it could takes weeks before many Americans feel the full impact of the budget shrinking. The warring sides in Washington have spent this week assigning blame rather than seeking a bipartisan way out. In a glimpse of the state of debate on Wednesday, Republicans and the White House bickered over whether the cuts would be under way by the time Friday's meeting started. A spokesman for Boehner said they would be in place; the White House countered that Obama would in fact have until midnight Friday to set them in motion. The cumbersome annual ritual of passing annual agency spending bills collapsed entirely last year — not a single one of the 12 annual appropriations bills for the budget year that began back in October has passed Congress — and Congress has to act by March 27 to prevent a partial shutdown of the government. By freezing budgets for domestic agencies, the Republican plan would deny an increase for a big cybersecurity initiative, additional money to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal and money to build new Coast Guard cutters. GOP initiatives such as more money for the Small Business Administration or fossil fuels research would be hurt as well, but there's little appetite for the alternative, which is to stack more than $1 trillion worth of spending bills together for a single up-or-down vote. But the GOP move to add the line-by-line spending bills for the Pentagon and veterans' programs to the catchall spending bill would give the military much-sought increases for force readiness and the Veterans Administration additional funding for health care. That approach has few fans in the White House, which is seeking money to implement Obama's signature efforts to overhaul financial regulation and the nation's health care system, or within the Democratic Senate, where members of the Appropriations Committee want to add a stack of bills covering domestic priorities such as homeland security, NASA and federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI. "You need balance," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "We feel as strongly about the domestic side as we do defense." The catchall spending measure, known as a continuing resolution or CR inside Washington, was originally seen as a potential must-pass measure to avert Friday's cuts or make them less severe. But no serious talks to avert the cuts have been under way. On Thursday, Democrats will force a vote on a measure that would forestall the automatic cuts through the end of the year, replacing them with longer-term cuts to the Pentagon and cash payments to farmers and installing a minimum 30 percent tax rate on income exceeding $1 million. But that plan is virtually certain to be toppled by a GOP-led filibuster vote. Republicans in turn are considering offering a measure that would give Obama authority to propose a rewrite to the 2013 budget to redistribute the cuts. Obama would be unable to cut defense by more than the $43 billion reduction that the Pentagon currently faces, and would also be unable to raise taxes to undo the cuts. The GOP plan would allow a resulting Obama proposal to go into effect unless Congress passed a resolution to overturn it. The idea is that money could be transferred from lower-priority accounts to accounts funding air traffic control or meat inspection. But the White House says that such moves would offer only slight relief. At the same time, however, it could take pressure off of Congress to address the sequester. In the House, where Republicans in the past Congress passed legislation to replace the cuts, Boehner has said it's now up to Obama and the Senate to figure a way out. The Senate never took up the House-passed bills, which expired when the new Congress was seated in January.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sources: Rockets make deals with Suns, Kings; Morris twins reunited in Phoenix

The Houston Rockets acquired Sacramento's Thomas Robinson, the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, in a deal on Wednesday night, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. The Rockets sent Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich to the Kings. In a separate deal, the Rockets sent Marcus Morris to the Phoenix Suns for a 2013 second-round draft pick. That deal reunites Morris with his twin brother, Markieff. Thomas Robinson (USA Today Sports) The Kings give up Robinson, the power forward out of Kansas, Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt, sources said. Marcus and Markieff played together at Kansas and were chosen back-to-back with the 13th and 14th picks of the 2011 draft. Marcus started 17 games for the Rockets this season, averaging 8.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 21 minutes a game. Robinson is off to a slow start in the NBA. In 51 games off the bench, he averaged 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in nearly 16 minutes per game. Nevertheless, he's still considered to hold considerable potential as a power forward. The Seattle ownership group, led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, was notified of the trade before its completion, a source told Y! Sports. The group has agreed to purchase the Kings from the Maloof family and is awaiting approval from the NBA Board of Governors.

Lakers beat Celtics 113-99 on emotional night

Dwight Howard had 24 points and 12 rebounds in helping the Los Angeles Lakers to an emotional 113-99 victory over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night in their first game since the death of owner Jerry Buss. Kobe Bryant added 16 points, Steve Nash and Earl Clark had 14 apiece, and Metta World Peace 12 in a game that surely would have delighted Buss, who always loved to win but especially liked beating the Celtics. The Lakers won their most recent NBA championship - and last under Buss - in 2010, defeating the Celtics 4-3 in the finals. Buss died Monday at 80 after an 18-month struggle with cancer that had forced him to watch his team's games on TV or an iPad instead of from his suite above the Staples Center court. Paul Pierce scored 26 points for the Celtics, who fell to 8-17 on the road and lost their third in a row away from home. Courtney Lee added 20 points and Kevin Garnett had 12 on 6-of-14 shooting. Howard's performance in the Lakers' first game since the All-Star break came on the eve of the NBA trade deadline. He has been the subject of rumors, but general manager Mitch Kupchak said this week that Howard wouldn't be going anywhere. He was among seven Lakers in double figures on a night when they shot 51 percent, dominated the paint 54-30 and were 22 of 31 from the free throw line for one of the most complete games they've played in months. Clark had a career-high 16 rebounds, and Antawn Jamison added 15 points off the bench for Los Angeles. The Lakers improved to 26-29 and gained a split in the season series, having avenged a 116-95 loss to the Celtics on Feb. 7 when they trailed by 32 points. Boston trailed by nine at the end of the first two quarters before the Lakers opened up a 75-57 lead early in the third. Typical of their balanced scoring throughout the game, World Peace, Bryant, Nash, Howard and Clark each contributed baskets in the 11-2 run. Nash had seven assists, giving him 10,144 while passing Magic Johnson for sole possession of fourth place on the career list. The Lakers shot 51 percent in the first half and had four players in double figures, helping them to a 64-55 lead. Howard was energetic in scoring 15 points and setting screens reminiscent of his days with Orlando. Bryant had 14 points, Nash 12 and World Peace 10. Pierce carried the Celtics with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting in the half, when they shot 49 percent. Buss was remembered in a pregame video tribute featuring photos of him as a child all the way through him hoisting trophies marking the team's 10 NBA championships won under his ownership. Bryant fittingly spoke on behalf of the Lakers' players, having been acquired by the Lakers as a 17-year-old. ''He was a brilliant, incredible owner but an even better person,'' Bryant said of Buss. ''His innovation transcended the game and we are all, all spoiled by his vision and his drive to win year after year after year.'' There was a moment of silence in the darkened arena before the crowd broke up the quiet with chants of ''Jerry, Jerry.'' A memorial service for invited guests will be held Thursday at Nokia Theatre across the street from Staples Center. Buss will be buried in a private service on Friday. NOTES: Lakers F Pau Gasol said he hopes to get off his crutches soon and return before the end of the regular season. He had surgery on his right foot after injuring it on Feb. 5. ... The Celtics signed free agent G-F Terrence Williams to a 10-day contract on Wednesday. He had been playing with Guangdong in the Chinese league, averaging 17.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 29 games. ... Jeanie Buss accepted condolences on her father's passing from numerous well-wishers stopping by her seat before the game. ... Jack Nicholson and Dyan Cannon, longtime Lakers fans dating to the team's days at the Forum in Inglewood, were on hand.

Soccer: Milan strangle Barcelona to seal shock win

AC Milan produced a defensive masterclass to shackle Barcelona and secure a shock 2-0 win in their Champions League last-16 first-leg match on Wednesday. A hotly-protested goal by Kevin-Prince Boateng in the 57th minute set AC Milan on their way over the Champions League favorites. Barcelona, who eliminated Milan last season, surrounded the referee complaining Cristian Zapata had handled the ball before it landed at the feet of Boateng who smacked it into the net. Barca, who had dominated possession in their familiar style, lost their grip on the game after the incident and were sunk by a second goal from Boateng's fellow Ghanaian Sulley Muntari. "It's very bad (for the return leg)," Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Canal Plus. "The first half wasn't bad and we controlled the game but when they scored the first goal we lost that control and they were able to take their second chance. "We have to improve and learn and try to turn things around at the Camp Nou. "There is no excuse from the pitch or the referee. We'll look forward to the return leg now and try to win," he added. The return leg is on March 12. Even Barcelona top scorer Lionel Messi, who has netted in the last 14 La Liga matches, struggled to make his mark with a muted performance against Milan. Milan had failed to win in their previous seven meetings with Barcelona and started as rank outsiders with a team mostly assembled during the course of the season. WARNING SHOT Muntari fired a warning shot with a dipping 30-metre volley which flew over the crossbar after five minutes and Stephan El Shaarawy should have done better when he was sent clear by Boateng's flicked pass. The teenage forward failed to control the ball as he raced towards goal, allowing Carles Puyol to intercept. From the corner, Boateng hooked the ball just wide of the far post, giving Barca their first scare. Barca, who could have had a penalty when Dani Alves' whipped cross hit Philippe Mexes' outstretched arm, took control with their familiar slick passing, although they did not create many real openings. It was Milan who were more dangerous as a low diagonal cross into the area from Zapata eluded El Shaarawy just before halftime. The second half started with more Barcelona possession before Milan struck the first blow. A short free kick was played by Riccardo Montolivo, his low shot struck Jordi Alba, ricocheted against Zapata's outstretched arms and fell to Boateng to sweep into the goal. Barca protested furiously and were unsettled. The match degenerated into a niggly affair, with the visitors infuriating the crowd at one point by keeping possession after a drop ball. Andres Iniesta was close to equalizing with a shot which swerved wide but instead Milan added another goal when a well-worked move ended with Muntari firing into the far corner of the net in the 80th minute. "We played as a team. Our coach did a fantastic job," Muntari told Sky Sports. "We were very disciplined and closed every angle. Barca are the top club in the world, they play fantastic football and have amazing players. They're going to make you suffer if you don't have discipline. "2-0 is a lot but the Nou Camp is not easy, they can win by five goals. They have amazing players but we'll do our best," he said of the return leg.

Special Report: Russia's $50 billion Olympic gamble

Above the Black Sea city of Sochi, one of Russia's richest men is spending billions of roubles to turn a patch of mountainside into a global showpiece. Metals magnate Vladimir Potanin has paid for new buildings, new lifts and hundreds of snow canons in the hope of transforming slopes not far from sub-tropical Sochi into a world-class ski resort. Like most of the plans to host the Winter Olympic Games next year, Russia's ambitions for the ski village and other venues are outsized in scale and ambition. Total investment to make the sleepy region fit to welcome thousands of competitors and the world's media is expected to exceed $50 billion, according to Russia's international news agency RIA Novosti. That would make it the most expensive games, summer or winter, ever staged. The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, cost a mere $3.6 billion, according to an estimate by PricewaterhouseCoopers, though others put the bill closer to $6 billion. While Russia's President Vladimir Putin has not flinched at Sochi's eye-popping expense, some private investors and wealthy oligarchs, recruited by Putin to help foot the bill, are chafing at how much they are expected to do. In a rare challenge to the Kremlin they are demanding that the state help with the rising costs. Though precise figures on who is paying for what in Sochi are hard to obtain, RIA Novosti says private investors have spent nearly $25 billion. Federal and regional budgets have accounted for some $13 billion of the costs incurred to date, according to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. Potanin, whose estimated fortune of $14.5 billion makes him Russia's fourth richest man, according to Forbes, is complaining of at least $530 million of extra work his company was required to do. Now he wants the government to boost its contribution to his projects by cutting interest rates on his debt, which includes money borrowed through a line of credit with state bank Vnesheconombank of up to $750 million. "We are carrying out talks with the government on the compensation of a part of these expenditures through interest rate subsidies," said Potanin, speaking to Reuters. "Many see this as a form of government support. But actually it is only compensation for expenditures, which are not characteristic of ... commercial projects." Oleg Deripaska, another billionaire oligarch, has similar complaints, reflecting the complex, symbiotic relationship Putin has with Russia's rich elite. "The bargaining power is with the oligarchs until 2014, because they can come to the state for money or threaten that the construction won't get done in time," said Bruce Bower, a partner at the investment firm Verno Capital, who has lived in Russia since 2005. Putin wants the Games to project a positive image of Russia to the world and may endure the rising bills with a fixed smile, said Bower. The Russian president may hope to recoup a return on the investment later. Whether the oligarchs will as well is far from clear. "All (rises in costs) there are justified. It is not possible to calculate everything in advance. New demands arise, including those from the International Olympic Committee, which require additional costs. There's nothing extraordinary about it," said Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. "Regarding possible disputes (between investors and developers), they are inevitable when large-scale projects like this one are being developed." A 'SOCIAL PROJECT' In the eyes of many Russians, it was Putin's barnstorming style that won the country the right to stage the 2014 games. In 2007 Putin flew to Guatemala where he wooed the International Olympic Committee in a speech in English, French and Spanish. He presented an ambitious plan of public and private partnerships to create the necessary Olympic infrastructure from scratch in what was one of Russia's least developed areas. Russia's wealthy were always going to be part of the plan, said Bower, adding that they were encouraged by the prospect of gaining other high-profile state contracts in the future. Infrastructure is expected to remain a growing market as Moscow and regional governments look to replace crumbling Soviet-era facilities for the football World Cup to be staged in Russia in 2018. Morgan Stanley says infrastructure spending is expected to account for 7 percent of Russia's rising GDP at least until 2018. Many Russia watchers believe the country's most powerful businessmen keep their wealth at the pleasure of the Kremlin. For Sochi, many of the biggest ventures were split up between Russia's oligarchs, most of whom, like Potanin and Deripaska, are close to Putin. "It wasn't a question of either of them making business decisions to join in with Olympics preparation. They were essentially told it would be a good idea for them to help out," said one contractor. Another source, who bid for a contract in Sochi but was eliminated on a technicality, said that the Kremlin had suggested its continued support for their business ventures depended on oligarchs getting involved. Deripaska's construction firm Basic Element declined to comment on whether his participation in the Olympics was a result of political pressure. Potanin has said the idea was born after he skiied with Putin. But in an interview on Ren TV he said his participation in the Games was altruistic. "I look at this project like a regular social project coming from a person who has the ability to realize such a project for the country," he said. Well-connected Russians grew rich in the chaotic years after the fall of the Soviet Union by acquiring some of the country's most valuable assets at well below market values. Potanin made his first fortune as a banker handling high-profile state accounts. Under a current deal, he will own a 30.3 percent share in the former state-owned company Norilsk Nickel, the world's biggest nickel producer. Deripaska, a former physicist who came to control RUSAL, the world's largest aluminum company, will hold a 27.8 percent stake in Norilsk Nickel. In Sochi, Potanin's projects include hotels and chalets as well as the ski slopes at the resort of Rosa Khutor in the nearby mountains. Another investor is Arkady Rotenburg, a construction billionaire who in his youth was a judo sparring partner of Putin. Stroygazmontazh, the pipeline company that he owns, has built a 177-km (110-mile) on and off-shore gas pipeline around Sochi. Rotenburg also has a stake in Russia's largest bridge builder, Mostotrest, through investment vehicle Marco Polo Investments, where he is a main shareholder. Mostotrest is carrying out extensive work in Sochi, including the construction of a number of roads and traffic junctions. Deripaska's projects include the $760 million Olympic village, which will host 3,000 people in 47 buildings, and a 42-km road around the venues. He is also spending nearly $300 million to expand Sochi International Airport, according to his website. The construction of a new terminal will allow the airport to handle 2,500 passengers per hour - up from a previous capacity of 900 passengers per hour. LOYAL SHOWING In general, Russia's super-rich elite dare not defy Putin, according to Maria Lipman, an analyst at think tank Carnegie Moscow Centre. "They may be more demanding behind the scenes, but for now the show of loyalty is all part of the informal deals that Russia is based on," she said. But there can be occasional discord. The soaring costs of Olympic projects have driven officials at Deripaska's company Transstroy to pursue an arbitration battle with Olympstroy, the state-owned company coordinating construction of the venues. Transstroy says costs crept up after it had taken on the project. "At the beginning of the project a number of errors and inaccuracies were allowed, which had to be worked out during construction," the company said in a statement. Deripaska, whose wealth is estimated at $8.8 billion, wants to recover $50 million of unexpected costs, according to court documents. "We want to work out officially in the courts the difference between the volume of work in the initial project phase, which was put up for bidding, and the project that was changed by the customer during the process of construction," the company said. The first hearing at the Moscow Arbitration Court is scheduled for today. At the same time Olympstroy has filed a lawsuit against Transstroy, claiming, according to investigators quoted by newspaper Kommersant, that Deripaska's company broke a contract by using cheap filling material to support the ground under construction sites. "We believe that the criminal case opened by Olympstroy is only the result of a misunderstanding, nothing more," said Transstroy spokeswoman Elena Guryanova. Contractors say cost overruns are often caused by the byzantine structure of deals. By employing large numbers of sub-contractors the risk of hidden or inflated expenses goes up. On a visit to Sochi earlier this month, Putin said that corruption pushes up prices, though he did not point the finger at any particular group. "The main thing is that no one steals anything, so there are no unexplained increases in costs," he was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. A spokeswoman for Deripaska's Transstroy said his companies were not aware of any corruption in their construction projects. A spokeswoman for Deripaska himself declined to answer questions. Potanin did comment, but said in his interview on Ren TV that he had been dealt with fairly and that corruption was not an issue. "We are not running into those kinds of problems in construction of our resort Rosa Khutor," he said. Some Sochi contractors take a similar view to Putin on the damaging effect of corruption. One contractor said that inflated price tags are sometimes caused by kickbacks and can often lead to shoddy building jobs. Officially the government says Olympic preparations are on time. Kozak, the deputy prime minister, chaired a meeting earlier this month with government officials responsible for the games and said construction had reached its final phase. "I want to remind you about something that we have spoken about more than once - that the Olympics should begin on February 7, 2014, exactly at 20:00, and not a minute later," he said in a statement on the government's website. But locals complain of power cuts, and building is still underway at many of the Olympic venues. Numerous hotels have yet to be finished along the city's coastline, where 75,000 guests are expected. Though Putin declared during a visit to Sochi this month that the Olympic facilities would be ready on time, he also dismissed the vice-president of Russia's Olympic Committee, Akhmed Bilalov, after learning that the ski-jumping venue was behind schedule and over-budget. Bilalov declined to be interviewed. Nor has everything has gone smoothly for Olympstroy, which has had four chiefs since it was created in 2007. Comparing Sochi's price tag with that of previous Games, Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister of Russia and current opposition leader, believes those involved in the Olympics have stolen billions earmarked for construction. GRAND PRIX HOPE For the president the pay-off for all this comes partly in projecting an image of a mighty Russia to voters and the wider world. The Sochi games will begin with(More)...

Official: Calif. gunman was loner, 'gamer'


The first of three people killed in a gunman's rampage was identified Wednesday as a 20-year-old woman but police did not know why she was in the home of the shooter, who lived with his parents and was described by authorities as a video game-playing loner. Courtney Aoki, 20, of Buena Park was shot multiple times early Tuesday in the home where gunman Ali Syed, 20, lived, said Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino. Authorities don't know her occupation, how she might have known Syed, how she got in the house — or what drove Syed to kill her with a shotgun and then leave a trail of dead and wounded as he stole a series of cars and eventually committed suicide at an intersection. "There is no evidence, no notes that would explain his very bizarre and violent behavior," Amormino said, adding there was no evidence of a sexual assault and the woman was found fully clothed. The shootings and carjackings lasted about an hour and created chaos and terror for early morning commuters who were shot at, had their car stolen or saw someone get shot. In one 911 call, a panicked construction worker reported that the foreman at his business had been shot and one of the company's trucks stolen. The man then followed Syed in another truck as he fled on the freeway, telling a dispatcher his location. "The guy has a shotgun and I need an ambulance too," the caller said. "There is someone who has been shot. Hurry up! I need an ambulance. Right away. Fast. There's someone with a shotgun. There's someone down! There's someone down!" Syed was a loner and a "gamer" who spent hours holed up in his room, authorities said. "He took one class at college and he did not work, so that gives him most of the day and evening and most of the time in his free time he was playing video games," Amormino said. A 12-gauge shotgun used in the killings belonged to Syed and was purchased by his father about a year ago, he said. Attorney Vincent John LaBarbera Jr. made a statement for Syed's family Wednesday night. "No words can express their heartbreak and sorrow," La Barbera said. "Their thoughts and prayers go out to the families of all the victims. They will continue to assist authorities in the investigation as they themselves try to make sense of this tragedy." The rampage began before dawn Tuesday at the home in Ladera Ranch, a wealthy Orange County suburb about 50 miles south of Los Angeles, and ended 25 miles to the north during the early morning rush hour. Syed killed two more people during carjackings, injured at least three more, and shot up cars zooming down a busy freeway interchange before he ended it by putting the shotgun to his own head as police closed in. The shooter forced one commuter out of his BMW, marched him to a curb and shot him three times from behind as shocked witnesses looked on, Tustin police Chief Scott Jordan said. Syed had no criminal history and no history of mental illness or mental disability, said Lt. Paul Garaven, a Tustin police spokesman. An autopsy will determine whether Syed had any drugs in his system, but Amormino said no illegal drugs were found in the house and there were no signs he was using illegal substances. His parents did not recognize the woman who was shot to death in the Ladera Ranch home, he said. Syed's parents called police at 4:45 a.m. Tuesday after hearing the gunshots, but Syed had already sped off in their black SUV. Officials released the 911 call Syed's parents made as a dispatcher tried to elicit information from the shooter's panicked, sobbing mother as a house alarm blared in the background. "I think somebody was shot," the mother said in her first comprehensible statement. "I heard a gunshot." The dispatcher then asked questions to sort out what happened including whether there was an intruder or if the mother had been shot. "Yes, there is somebody in our house," the mother said. After several minutes, Syed's father took the phone and said he believed his son may have gotten in a fight with a friend. The father said Syed left the home and took their car but he and his wife had not entered his son's room to see what happened. "We were asleep, we heard something, it sounded like a gunshot," he said. From Ladera Ranch, the gunman headed north and pulled off Interstate 5 in Tustin, about 20 miles away, with a flat tire, police said. There he fired at and wounded a man in a car, then carjacked a vehicle from a man at a gas station and got back on the freeway, where he fired at commuters, authorities said. The shooter then exited the freeway in nearby Santa Ana and carjacked a BMW, killing driver Melvin Lee Edwards, 69, of Laguna Hills. Edwards served as a U.S. Army combat infantry officer in Vietnam and graduated from the University of Southern California, according to a biography on his company's website. He and his wife, Cheryl, had celebrated their 42nd anniversary on Feb. 12 and have two adult children, his brother-in-law, Jeff Osborn, told the AP in a phone interview. "He was an extremely remarkable person. I know it's an old cliche, but he really did love life," he said. "The world's a lot smaller today for not having him here." One 911 caller told a dispatcher she watched through her rear-view mirror as a man later identified as Edwards got shot and another caller reports that he's can see him lying near the off-ramp. Syed took Edwards' BMW and next popped up at a Tustin business, where he shot and killed construction worker Jeremy Lewis, 26, of Fullerton. Lewis' co-worker rushed to intervene and was shot in the arm, Jordan said.

Adults cut back fast food, but U.S. kids still eat too much fat: CDC

American adults have made a little progress in recent years in cutting back on calories from fast food, but children are still consuming too much fat, U.S. health researchers say. French fries, pizza and similar items accounted for about 11 percent of U.S. adults' caloric intake from 2007 to 2010, on average, down from about 13 percent between 2003 and 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in one of two reports released on Thursday. Younger adults, black Americans and those who are already obese consumed the highest amounts of such food, which is often high in fat, salt and calories that can doom waistlines. The CDC found in a separate report that while American children, on average, are consuming fewer calories overall than they used to, the percentage of their calories from artery-clogging saturated fat was still above optimal levels. Recommended U.S. guidelines suggest that no more than 10 percent of one's daily calories should come from such fat, but American youth took in between 11 percent and 12 percent from 2009 to 2010, data from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics showed. Americans' diets and weight is a source of constant scrutiny and research in a country where two-thirds of the population is considered overweight or obese. According to the CDC, 36 percent of U.S. adults, or 78 million, and 17 percent of youth, or 12.5 million, are obese. Another third are overweight. The slight decline in fast food consumption among adults reflects a growing trend toward healthier options. Many food and beverage companies have revamped their products or created new, healthier options to account for the shift in consumer tastes. Still, Americans lead the world in calorie consumption. Portion sizes also have increased over the years, coupled with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, have added up to extra pounds. Complications from obesity include diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and some cancers. "Previous studies have reported that more frequent fast-food consumption is associated with higher energy and fat intake and lower intake of healthful nutrients," CDC wrote. Young black adults are especially a concern. Those aged 20 to 39 get more than one-fifth, or 21 percent, of their calories from fast food versus whites and Hispanics in the same age group who get about 15 percent from such foods, CDC found. Obese and overweight adults also ate more fast food, it added. Healthy weight is calculated by measuring body mass index, or BMI, using height and weight. For example, a 5-foot, 6-inch (1.7 meter) woman weighing 186 pounds (84 kilograms) would be considered obese as would a 6-foot (1.8 meter) man weighing 221 pounds (100 kilograms). The CDC also said that American boys aged 2 to 19 took in about 2,100 calories daily during 2009 and 2010, a drop from 2,258 calories in 1999-2000. Girls saw their daily caloric intake fall to 1,755 from 1,831 during the same timeframe.

Cash, sexism and violence keep women out of Kenyan politics

Violence, a deeply chauvinistic society and a lack of cash are locking women out of elected office in Kenya, east Africa's leading economy but a laggard when it comes to female representation. The country's new constitution guarantees women a third of seats in parliament, but two and a half years since its adoption, Kenya's male-dominated assembly has still not passed the necessary legislation to put the constitutional principle into practice. In next month's general election only one of eight presidential runners is female, and women held just 10 percent of seats in the last parliament, half the sub-Saharan average. "Society sees our place being the kitchen and the bedroom. Nothing beyond there," parliamentary candidate Sophia Abdi Noor told Reuters. Noor is the only woman running for parliament in the remote, arid northeast. Hailing from Kenya's conservative ethnic-Somali community, Noor and her family have been on the receiving end of public taunts and curses since her first foray into politics in 1997. "People abused my husband. They told him, 'Now wear the skirt, let Sophia wear the trousers'," said Noor, who in 2007 was handed a seat reserved for marginalized groups. The northeastern region has never elected a female lawmaker. Across Kenya, from the fertile slopes of the Rift Valley to the steamy Indian Ocean coastline, female political aspirants painted the same picture: politics is the preserve of men in a country that struggles to deal with women in authority. Many look with envy to Rwanda, where more than half of legislators are women, more than anywhere in the world. There women have pushed through reforms granting them equal inheritance, property and citizenship rights. The lack of women in Kenyan politics, critics say, means women's and children's rights rarely get a proper hearing in the rowdy parliamentary chamber. "We are a patriarchal society. Power and money are two things that are very difficult for men to let go of," said Naisola Likimani, a former head of advocacy at the Africa Women's Development and Communication Network. GUNS, THREATS AND CONDOMS That desire for power and money - and political office tends to bring both in Kenya - means that violent attacks, or threats of violence, against women are not uncommon. Last month, Millie Odhiambo was seeking her party's nomination for the Mbita parliamentary constituency in western Kenya. Before voting even began in the party primary, she says, supporters of a rival loaded the ballot papers on to a pickup truck as three men in police uniforms entered the polling station firing guns in the air. Their intent, she said, was to spoil the vote. "I literally had to jump on the pickup to protect that ballot," Odhiambo told Reuters. She went on to win the ticket. In other primaries, female candidates said they were threatened with rape and shunned by elders for violating tradition. One found a rival had littered the polling station with condoms with her name on them in an attempt, she said, to portray her as promiscuous in the eyes of conservative voters. In next month's general election, 156 women will battle it out against men for parliamentary seats, a sharp fall on the 269 who contested the last ballot in 2007. This is, in part, because another 300 will focus their bids on the 47 seats reserved for women representatives of each county, a new post. This, however, will only guarantee women 16 percent of the overall seats in the chamber. A complete lack of political will was to blame for the last parliament's failure to implement constitutional guarantees of affirmative action, said social policy analyst Atieno Ndomo. "People who are benefiting from this arrangement have no interest whatsoever to change it," she said. Kenyan lawmakers are among the best paid in the world. THE "IRON LADY" One woman determined to shatter the common belief that Kenya is not ready for a female president is Martha Karua. Nicknamed the 'Iron Lady' after the steely former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the former justice minister is the only female presidential candidate in the March 4 vote. She won't win. The latest opinion polls show her with just 1-2 percent of the vote, a sign Kenyan voters are still not ready to depart from the old-boys-club style of politics that has defined Kenya's political scene since independence. Karua's gender, and the fact she is divorced, often count against her in this deeply religious society. "A woman is supposed to be under men," said 23-year-old Hyphe Ouya at a rally attended by Karua. "We don't believe a woman could be president." Women politicians don't only need to change the minds of men like Ouya, they also need cash to run their campaigns. One Nairobi think-tank estimates that the front-runners Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta will spend a combined $350 million on their campaigns, a record for Kenya [ID:nL5N0BDC7X] Personal wealth and political and business ties are key to wracking up such huge campaign funds. Karua has said she can't match their spending power. But sidelining women from politics when they make up more than half of Kenya's 40 million-strong population is not an option, says Karua.

SAfrica police: Pistorius detective faces charges

South African police say the lead investigator in the case against Olympian Oscar Pistorius faces attempted murder charges in an October 2011 shooting. Police Brig. Neville Malila said Thursday that detective Hilton Botha is scheduled to appear in court in May on seven counts of attempted murder. Malila says Botha and two other police officers fired shots while trying to stop a minivan in the incident. On Wednesday, the prosecution case against Pistorius began to unravel with revelations of a series of police blunders and Botha's admission that authorities have no evidence challenging the double-amputee Olympian's claim he killed his girlfriend accidentally. Pistorius faces a charge of premeditated murder.

5 dead after small jet crashes in eastern GA

An official says five people are dead and two injured after a small jet ran off the end of a runway and crashed at an airport in eastern Georgia. Thomson-McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall says the jet carrying seven people crashed after 8 p.m. Wednesday. Logan says the two survivors were taken to area hospitals and their conditions were not known. He says the identities of those killed are being withheld pending notification of family members. Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said in an email that the Hawker Beechcraft 390/Premier I crashed around 8:30 p.m. at the Thomson-McDuffie County Airport, about 30 miles west of Augusta. THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below. A small jet with seven people aboard ran off the end of a runway and crashed Wednesday evening at an airport in eastern Georgia, authorities said. The Hawker Beechcraft 390/Premier I crashed around 8:30 p.m. at the Thomson-McDuffie County Airport, about 30 miles west of Augusta, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said in an email. Seven people were aboard, she told The Associated Press in the email. But she added that she had no immediate details about a possible cause, the identities of those aboard or their fate. A sheriff's official in McDuffie County had said initially there could be at least one fatality. But all calls to police, coroner and fire officials were being referred to the airport late Wednesday night and local authorities later would not confirm any injuries or fatalities. A message left by AP for the sheriff seeking more details was not immediately returned. The Augusta Chronicle (http://bit.ly/WbvMGa) cited Assistant County Fire Chief Stephen Sewell as saying there were at least two survivors identified as a pilot and a passenger. But he provided no additional information about those aboard in that account. The newspaper said a brush fire flared near the crash scene, quoting witnesses who reported local power outages that prompted a utility to send workers to the site. A photograph posted on the newspaper's online site showed ambulances with lights flashing. The plane was on a flight from John Tune Airport in Nashville, Tenn., to the Thomson-McDuffie airport, Bergen said in her email, adding the aircraft is registered to a company based in Wilmington, Del.

Japan's Abe seeks to show off alliance, get Obama nod on Abenomics

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be seeking to put a strong U.S.-Japan alliance on full display in the face of potential threats from a nuclear North Korea and an assertive China when he meets U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday. Abe, who has kept his ratings high since taking office in December, also needs Obama's signoff on his economic revival recipe of big spending and hyper-easy monetary policy. Expectations for "Abenomics" - especially drastic monetary easing - have sliced about 10 percent off the yen's value against the dollar since Abe took office, raising concern abroad that Japan is weakening its currency to export its way out of recession. "The situation in East Asia is becoming more and more precarious," said Mikitaka Masuyama, a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. "One of the things he wants to achieve will be reinforcement of the Japan-U.S. alliance." "It would be a successful trip for Abe if his economic policy wins a nod from the U.S. side or at least if it is not rejected outright," he added. Abe, who leaves for Washington on Thursday, also hopes to secure at least a wink and a nod from Obama that would allow him to argue that Japan can negotiate special treatment for politically sensitive sectors such as rice if it joins talks on a U.S.-led free trade pact. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that Tokyo must be willing to negotiate all trade sectors, but did not rule out the possibility of special treatment in the final deal. Japan's big businesses wants it to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal to avoid being left behind in global competition, but powerful farm lobby groups are opposed, dividing Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). SHOULDER TO SHOULDER Aides say Abe's top priority for the visit, during which he will hold a summit on Friday with Obama and deliver a policy speech entitled "Japan is Back", is to repair an alliance they argue was dented by the 2009-2012 rule of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). "During the three years and three months of the Democratic Party government, there was a great gap in the U.S.-Japan alliance," said a close aide to Abe. "So the biggest objective is to rebuild the alliance." Outside experts agree the alliance suffered under the first DPJ prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, who tried unsuccessfully to revise a deal to move a U.S. Marine air base to a sparsely populated part of Japan's Okinawa island. But Abe's immediate predecessor, Yoshihiko Noda, did much to repair the damage, they say. The two leaders will certainly spend time on the need for stronger sanctions on North Korea and are likely to discuss beefed up missile defense after Pyongyang's latest nuclear test last week. The hawkish Abe will also be hoping that putting a robust alliance on display sends a signal to China not to escalate the row over tiny islands in the East China Sea claimed by both Japan and China. "It is important for us to have them recognize that it is impossible to try to get their way by coercion or intimidation. In that regard, the Japan-U.S. alliance, as well as the U.S. presence, would be critical," Abe told the Washington Post in an interview. Tension has raised fears of an unintended military incident near the islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. Washington says the islets fall under a U.S.-Japan security pact, but it is keen to avoid a clash. Abe is expected to come bearing one welcome gift - a promise that Japan will finally join an international treaty on settling cross-border child custody disputes, known as The Hague Convention. Japan has been the only member of the Group of Eight advanced nations not to join the pact, despite pressure from the United States and other countries.

Mexico security forces abducted dozens in drug war: rights group

Dozens of people were abducted and murdered by Mexican security forces over the past six years during a gruesome war with drug cartels, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday, urging President Enrique Pena Nieto to overhaul the military justice system. The rights group said that since 2007 it has documented 149 cases of people who were never seen again after falling into the hands of security forces, and that the government failed to properly investigate the "disappearances." "The result was the most severe crisis of enforced disappearances in Latin America in decades," the U.S.-based group said. (Human Rights Watch report: http://r.reuters.com/fyk26t) It recommended reforming Mexico's military justice system and creating a national database to link the missing with the thousands of unidentified bodies that piled up during the military-led crackdown on drug cartels. The report was a grim reminder of the dark side of the war on drug cartels that killed an estimated 70,000 people during former President Felipe Calderon's six-year presidency. The report also illustrates the obstacles that President Pena Nieto, who took office in December, faces in trying to stem the violence, restore order over areas of the country controlled by the drug cartels and end abuses by security forces. For nearly three years, 56-year-old shopkeeper Maria Orozco has sought to discover the fate of her son. She says he was abducted along with five colleagues by soldiers from the nightclub where they worked in Iguala, a parched town south of the Mexican capital. She says a grainy security video, submitted anonymously, shows the moment in 2010 when local soldiers rounded up the men. "We used to see the military like Superman or Batman or Robin. Super heroes," said Orozco. "Now the spirit of the whole country has turned against them." Hers was one of the cases illustrated in the Human Rights Watch report. Pena Nieto has vowed to take a different tack to his predecessor Calderon and focus on reducing violent crime and extortion rather than on going head to head with drug cartels. The government last month introduced a long-delayed law to trace victims of the drug war and compensate the families. It says it is moving ahead with plans to roll out a genetic database to track victims and help families locate the disappeared. "There exists, in theory, a database with more than 27,000 people on it," said Lia Limon, deputy secretary of human rights at Mexico's interior ministry. "It's a job that's beginning." Still, impunity remains rife. The armed forces opened nearly 5,000 investigations into criminal wrongdoing between 2007 and 2012, but only 38 ended in sentencing, according to Human Rights Watch. In its report it describes the impact of the disappearances on victims' families, a daily reality for Ixchel Mireles, a 50-year-old librarian from the northern city of Torreon, whose husband Hector Tapia was abducted by men in federal police uniforms. Neither Mireles nor her daughter has heard from Tapia since that night in June 2010. "I want him to be alive, but the reality just destroys me," said Mireles. "I just want them to give him back, even if he is dead." Since her husband's disappearance, Mireles has struggled financially, having lost his 40,000 pesos ($3,143) a month salary. She has moved her daughter to a cheaper university and can barely keep up payments on her house. "I now travel by foot," she said, noting that Mexico's social security system does not recognize the disappeared. Some family members of the disappeared have asked for soldiers guilty of rights abuses to be judged like civilians, a move Mexico's Supreme Court has approved.

Witness heard "non-stop shouting" in Pistorius home before shooting

A witness heard "non-stop shouting" in the home of athletics star Oscar Pistorius shortly before his girlfriend was shot dead, the lead detective in the murder investigation said on Wednesday. Warrant officer Hilton Botha, a detective with 24 years on the force, also told the Pretoria magistrates court that police had found two containers of testosterone and needles in Pistorius' bedroom. Pistorius, a double amputee dubbed "Blade Runner" because he raced on carbon fibre blades, sobbed uncontrollably as Botha presented his testimony about the death of Reeva Steenkamp, 29. The law graduate and model was in the toilet of the athlete's home when she was shot dead. The shooting and allegations that have emerged at the bail hearing have stunned South Africa and millions of people around the world who regarded Pistorius, who has no lower legs, as the epitome of sporting triumph over adversity. "One of our witnesses heard a fight, two people talking loudly at each other ... from two in the morning to three," Botha told the court. In an affidavit delivered on Tuesday, Pistorius said he woke in the middle of the night and thought an intruder had climbed through his bathroom window and entered the adjoining toilet. The 26-year-old said he grabbed a 9-mm pistol from under his bed and went into the bathroom. Pistorius - the highest-profile athlete in the history of the Paralympics - then described how he fired into the locked toilet door in a blind panic in the belief the intruder was lurking inside. In his testimony on Wednesday, Botha disputed Pistorius' affidavit. TRAJECTORY "I believe he knew she (Steenkamp) was in the bathroom and he shot four shots through the door," the detective said, adding the angle at which the rounds were fired suggested they were aimed deliberately at somebody on the toilet. Pistorius had said he moved into the bathroom on his stumps - the reason he felt so vulnerable - but Botha said the shots went in a "top to bottom" trajectory, suggesting Pistorius was wearing his artificial legs when he pulled the trigger. "It seems to me it was fired down," he said. Botha also cited another witness on the upscale gated community near Pretoria where Pistorius lived as saying he heard a shot, followed 17 minutes later by more shots. Another witness also spoke of a shot followed by screams, followed by more shots, he said. Steenkamp was hit in the head, arm and hip in the locker-sized toilet room adjoining the bathroom, which itself led from the bedroom. Pistorius' defense team disputed Botha's reference to "testosterone", saying the substance was a legitimate herbal remedy called "testo-composutim co-enzyme". Details on the makeup of testo-composutim co-enzyme were not immediately available but administering testosterone as an anabolic agent is banned at all times under World Anti-Doping Agency rules for sports people. ANGER At Steenkamp's funeral in the south coast city of Port Elizabeth on Tuesday, grief was tinged with anger. "I'm disgusted with what he did. He must be dealt with harshly," said Gavin Venter, an ex-jockey who worked for Steenkamp's father. "Without a doubt he's a danger to the public. He'll be a danger to witnesses. He must stay in jail." The case has drawn further attention to endemic violence against women in South Africa after the gang-rape, mutilation and murder of a 17-year-old near Cape Town this month. Members of the Women's League of the ruling African National Congress protested outside the Pretoria court, waving placards saying: "No Bail for Pistorius" and "Rot in jail". The arrest of Pistorius stunned the millions who had watched in awe last year as the Olympic and Paralympic sprinter reached the semi-final of the 400 meters in the London Olympics. But the impact has been greatest in sports-mad South Africa, where Pistorius was seen as a rare hero who had transcended the racial divides that persist 19 years after the end of apartheid. He carried South Africa's flag at the closing ceremony of the London Olympics, and U.S. magazine Sports Illustrated named him as one of the most inspiring figures of the year. "Many questions are being asked, but we have no answers," Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said in a statement. The sprinter's endorsements and sponsorships included sportswear giant Nike, British telecoms firm BT, sunglasses maker Oakley and French designer Thierry Mugler and were thought to be worth as much as $2 million a year. In his affidavit, Pistorius said he earned 5.6 million rand ($630,500) a year and owned properties worth nearly $1 million. However, Nike and Mugler both said they had dropped Pistorius from advertising campaigns, while cosmetics firm Clarins said it was recalling its "A Man" perfume range out of "respect and compassion towards the families involved".

Champions League - Paper Round: Wenger out of a job?

This morning's papers make dismal reading for Arsenal fans after their Champions League humiliation against Bayern Munich.

 Out of the FA Cup - Out of the League Cup - Out of title race - Almost out of CL - Should Wenger be OUT OF A JOB? Oliver Holt: The righteous anger of Arsene Wenger gave way to something more poignant at the Emirates. Outraged by newspaper headlines on Monday, he was humbled in front of the fans who once adored him. Sure, the supporters grew angry now and again at the impotence of their team against the might of Bayern Munich. But they have been angry for so long here that it is almost as if they are burned out with it. This is becoming a place of constant sorrow and the mood towards Wenger at times during this 3-1 mauling felt dangerously like pity. The Sun - Kiss good Bayern to another season Steven Howard: The loyalists still preach the Wenger mantra, that Arsene still knows best. But the once great man looks to have run out of both ideas and inspiration. It happens to them all — even the mighty Brian Clough. Even the best have a shelf life. So in many ways this was the result Arsenal Football Club probably needed. To show them exactly where they stand in the grand scheme of things. The Times - Arsenal left with no way back Matt Dickinson: We came to the Emirates Stadium wondering if this might be a watershed evening in the decline, and fall, of the Arsene Wenger empire. But that would load the occasion with historic significance when this, depressingly, was just more of the same. Terrible defending, an absence of leadership (the admirable Jack Wilshere aside), a team without a striker. So far so predictable. When the supporters have seen it all against Bradford City and Blackburn Rovers, it was hardly a surprise that Bayern Munich should brutally expose all the same fragilities. Daily Telegraph - Down and out Paul Hayward: Bayern are a pretty good approximation of how Wenger would probably like Arsenal to look, but in the same domestic league there would be 15-20 points between them. Jack Wilshere was one of the very few who carried the battle to Bayern in a way that Tony Adams or Vieira might have recognised. There was no turning point, no relief for Wenger and very little hope of Arsenal overturning this deficit in Bavaria, unless they can summon the spirit of Chelsea in last season’s Champions League final and somehow treble it. As Wenger himself said: “Let’s not hide the truth." The Guardian - Wenger concedes trophy hopes David Hytner: Jack Wilshere stuck to his task impressively, never hiding and always seeking to push his team. There was the creation of a couple of half-chances before the interval and he inspired a little more in the second-half. Even to the last, he gritted his teeth, burst into the area and forced Neuer into a rare safe. This, however, was Bayern's evening. They were too good for Arsenal. The worry is that Wilshere might be, as well. Independent - Don't blame Wenger James Lawton: (The possibility of a recovery) was put to the sword when Bayern’s marvellously fecund striker Mario Mandzukic ran beautifully to deliver a third goal. On the touch-line, Wenger sagged again. He had talked of the mental strength of his team and their deep-seated ability before this trial and no doubt he will walk again to create something from the debris of defeat. It is a forlorn task for a great football man for whom the weight of pressure had reached still another level.. Daily Mail - Hurtling towards oblivion Martin Samuel: Only seven clubs have overturned a first-leg home deficit in the Champions League, and a two-goal margin gapes like a chasm. Arsenal require a backs-to-the-wall performance as great as anything Chelsea pulled off last season; greater, really, considering Wenger’s team need to reverse not just form, but recent history.

NKorean propaganda video shows Obama in flames

A new North Korean video portrays President Barack Obama and American troops in flames and says the North conducted its recent nuclear test because of U.S. hostility. The video follows a string of critical rhetoric against the United States. Another video posted earlier this month showed an American city being attacked by missiles. The most recent video, posted Sunday by a YouTube account affiliated with a pro-reunification government agency, shows a blazing fire superimposed over footage of Obama, and ends with a generic simulation of a nuclear device exploding underground. The United States currently is negotiating in the Security Council for stronger U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang following a Feb. 12 nuclear test in the far northeast, the country's third since 2006.

Syria "Scud-type" missile said to kill 20 in Aleppo

A Syrian missile killed at least 20 people in a rebel-held district of Aleppo on Tuesday, opposition activists said, as the army turns to longer-range weapons after losing bases in the country's second-largest city. The use of what opposition activists said was a large missile of the same type as Russian-made Scuds against an Aleppo residential district came after rebels overran army bases over the past two months from which troops had fired artillery. As the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, now a civil war, nears its two-year mark, rebels also landed three mortar bombs in the rarely-used presidential palace compound in the capital Damascus, opposition activists said on Tuesday. The United Nations estimates 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict between largely Sunni Muslim rebels and Assad's supporters among his minority Alawite sect. An international diplomatic deadlock has prevented intervention, as the war worsens sectarian tensions throughout the Middle East. A Russian official said on Tuesday that Moscow, which is a long-time ally of Damascus, would not immediately back U.N. investigators' calls for some Syrian leaders to face the International Criminal Court for war crimes. Moscow has blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions that would have increased pressure on Assad. Casualties are not only being caused directly by fighting, but also by disruption to infrastructure and Syria's economy. An estimated 2,500 people in a rebel-held area of northeastern Deir al-Zor province have been infected with typhoid, which causes diarrhea and can be fatal, due to drinking contaminated water from the Euphrates River, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday. "There is not enough fuel or electricity to run the pumps so people drink water from the Euphrates which is contaminated, probably with sewage," the WHO representative in Syria, Elisabeth Hoff, told Reuters by telephone. The WHO had no confirmed reports of deaths so far. BURIED UNDER RUBBLE In northern Aleppo, opposition activists said 25 people were missing under rubble of three buildings hit by a several-meter-long missile. They said remains of the weapon showed it to be a Scud-type missile of the type government forces increasingly use in Aleppo and in Deir a-Zor. NATO said in December Assad's forces fired Scud-type missiles. It did not specify where they landed but said their deployment was an act of desperation. Bodies were being gradually dug up, Mohammad Nour, an activist, said by phone from Aleppo. "Some, including children, have died in hospitals," he said. Video footage showed dozens of people scouring for victims and inspecting damage. A body was pulled from under collapsed concrete. At a nearby hospital, a baby said to have been dug out from wreckage was shown dying in the hands of doctors. Reuters could not independently verify the reports. Opposition activists also reported fighting near the town of Nabak on the Damascus-Homs highway, another route vital for supplying forces in the capital loyal to Assad, whose family has ruled Syria since the 1960s. Rebels moved anti-aircraft guns into the eastern Damascus district of Jobar, adjacent to the city centre, as they seek to secure recent gains, an activist said. "The rebels moved truck-mounted anti-aircraft guns to Jobar and are now firing at warplanes rocketing the district," said Damascus activist Moaz al-Shami. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told a news conference a U.N. war crimes report, which accuses military leaders and rebels of terrorizing civilians, was "not the path we should follow ... at this stage it would be untimely and unconstructive." Syria is not party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC and the only way the court can investigate the situation is if it receives a referral from the Security Council, where Moscow is a permanent member.

Man goes on shooting rampage in Calif.; 3 killed


The early morning commute was just getting under way on suburban Orange County's network of freeways when Melvin Lee Edwards pulled up to a stop sign near a busy off-ramp. It was just after 5 a.m. and Edwards, 69, was on his way to work when, police say, a fleeing murder suspect forced him out of his BMW at gunpoint, marched him across the street and shot him three times from behind as horrified commuters watched. The shooting was the second of three murders in a trail of carnage early Tuesday that spanned 25 miles — but lasted just an hour. The shooter, 20-year-old Ali Syed, killed a woman in the home he shared with his parents, killed two drivers during carjackings, injured two others and shot up cars on a busy freeway interchange before committing suicide as police closed in, authorities said. Syed, an unemployed part-time community college student, had no known motive and acted alone, said Tustin police Chief Scott Jordan. The first victim, a woman in her twenties, has not been identified and was not related to Syed, he said. The violence began at 4:45 a.m., when deputies responded to a call from Ladera Ranch, a sleepy inland town about 55 miles southeast of Los Angeles. They found the woman shot multiple times. Syed's parents were in the house at the time, fled the residence when shots were fired, and reported it, Jordan said. From Ladera Ranch, the gunman headed north and pulled off Interstate 5 in Tustin, about 20 miles away, with a flat tire, police said. A man who was waiting in a shopping center parking lot to carpool with his son saw Syed had a gun and tried to escape in his Cadillac, Jordan said. Syed ran after the car as it drove away and fired his shotgun through the back window, striking the driver in head but not killing him. The driver "noticed that he was loading his shotgun, so he simply gets back in his car and tries to escape," Jordan said. "He's driving through the parking lot trying to get away and the suspect is actually chasing him on foot, taking shots at him." Syed then crossed the street to a Mobil gas station, where he approached the driver of a pick-up who was filling his tank and asked for his keys, Jordan said. "He says something to the effect of, 'I've killed somebody. Today's my last day. I don't want to hurt you. Give me your keys,'" the police chief said. "He hands over the keys and he gets in the truck and leaves." Syed got back on the freeway, where he pulled to the side of the road at the busy I-5 and State Route 55 interchange and began firing at commuters, Jordan said. One driver was struck in the mouth and hand. He didn't have a cellphone, but was able to drive home and call police. Two other cars were hit but their drivers weren't injured, Jordan said. "All of this is happening so quickly," he said, estimating that Syed shot at drivers from the side of the freeway transition for about a minute. The shooter then exited the freeway in nearby Santa Ana but ran the curb and got his car stuck, authorities said. He approached Edwards, of Laguna Hills, who was on his way to his Santa Ana business. Syed shot Edwards three times, including in the back of the head and the back, Jordan said. Onlookers "tried to get away. They saw what was going on, they tried to get away and they called police," he said. Syed took Edwards' BMW and next popped up at the Micro Center, a Tustin business, where he shot and killed construction worker Jeremy Lewis, 26, of Fullerton. Lewis' co-worker rushed to intervene and was shot in the arm, Jordan said. Syed took the second construction worker's utility truck and fled to Orange, this time with California Highway Patrol officers in pursuit. He jumped from the moving utility truck at an intersection in Orange, about five miles away, and shot himself in the head, Jordan said.