Thursday, February 21, 2013

Published:

GOP senator's backing gives Hagel enough support to be Pentagon chief

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Barring any new, damaging information, Chuck Hagel has secured the necessary votes for the Senate to confirm him to be the nation's next defense secretary. A vote ending the bitter fight over President Barack Obama's choice for his revamped second-term, national security team is expected next week.

Hagel cleared the threshold when five-term Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said he would vote for the former GOP senator from Nebraska after joining other Republicans last week in an unprecedented filibuster of the Pentagon nominee.

"He's probably as good as we're going to get," Shelby told the Decatur (Ala.) Daily.

Although a Republican, Hagel has faced strong GOP opposition, with many of his former colleagues voting last week to stall the nomination. Republicans have questioned Hagel's support for Israel, tolerance of Iran and willingness to cut the nuclear arsenal. His opposition to the Iraq war after his initial vote for the conflict angered his onetime friend, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

GOP lawmakers demanded more time to review the nomination that a divided Armed Services Committee had approved on a party-line vote.

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Drew Peterson screams in court before judge gives him 38-year term for 3rd wife's murder

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) -- Drew Peterson -- the swaggering Chicago-area policeman who gained notoriety after his fourth wife vanished -- lost his characteristic cool in court Thursday, screaming out his innocence before a judge sentenced him to 38 years in prison for the murder of a previous wife.

"I did not kill Kathleen!" Peterson shouted, leaning into a courtroom microphone and emphasizing each of the five words.

Without missing a beat, his dead wife's sister, Susan Doman, shouted back, "Yes, you did! You liar!" before the judge ordered sheriff's deputies to remove her from the courtroom.

For years, Peterson had casually dismissed and even joked about suggestions he killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio, or that he was behind the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.

His sudden explosion of fury Thursday as he stepped up to address the judge who would sentence him for Savio's 2004 death left spectators gasping. Lead state prosecutor James Glasgow said it exposed the real Drew Peterson -- the one more than capable of murder.

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10 Things to Know for Friday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:

1. WHO'S NOT BENEFITING FROM FLU SHOTS

This year's vaccine is proving startlingly ineffective in protecting older Americans -- the most vulnerable age group.

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Midwest blanketed by up to 14 inches of snow; impedes travel, forces schools, gov't to close

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Powdery snow bombarded much of the nation's midsection Thursday, leaving as much as 17 inches in some places, shutting down airports, schools and state legislatures.

The storm system swirled to the north and east Thursday night, its snow, sleet and freezing rain prompting winter storm warnings from Kansas to Illinois. Forecasters say the storm will continue its crawl overnight, hitting the upper Midwest by Friday morning.

The system has already left impressive snow accumulations, especially in Kansas, where a foot and half of snow fell in Hays. Farther east in Topeka, 3 inches of snow fell in only 30 minutes, leaving medical center worker Jennifer Carlock to dread the drive home.

"It came on fast," Carlock said as she shoveled around her car. "We're going to test out traction control on the way home."

Numerous accidents and two deaths were being blamed on the icy, slushy roadways. Most schools in Kansas and Missouri, and many in neighboring states, were closed Thursday and legislatures shut down in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska and Iowa.

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Flu vaccine doing poor job of protecting older people; CDC stands by shots for those over 65

ATLANTA (AP) -- It turns out this year's flu shot is doing a startlingly dismal job of protecting older people, the most vulnerable age group.

The vaccine is proving only 9 percent effective in those 65 and older against the harsh strain of the flu that is predominant this season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Health officials are baffled as to why this is so. But the findings help explain why so many older people have been hospitalized with the flu this year.

Despite the findings, the CDC stood by its recommendation that everyone over 6 months get flu shots, the elderly included, because some protection is better than none, and because those who are vaccinated and still get sick may suffer less severe symptoms.

"Year in and year out, the vaccine is the best protection we have," said CDC flu expert Dr. Joseph Bresee.

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Q&A: Flu vaccine protection disappointing, but health experts say still good reasons to get it

This season's flu shot seemed to do little to protect people over 65 from the worst and most dominant flu strain spreading around, a small government study found. Vaccinated people in that age group had only a 9 percent lower chance of going to the doctor with flu symptoms from the main virus than people who didn't get the shot.

The vaccine was much better at protecting younger people.

Q: If the flu shot did such a poor job for older folks, why should they get it?

A: Government doctors and other health experts say it's better than nothing. And some scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention think it's possible that even this less effective vaccine may have lessened symptoms. But they don't know that for sure.

Q: How well did the vaccine work for younger age groups?

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South Africa: Oscar Pistorius murder case gets new top detective ahead of bail decision

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- South African police appointed a new chief investigator Thursday in the Oscar Pistorius murder case, replacing a veteran detective after unsettling revelations that the officer was charged with seven counts of attempted murder.

The sensational twist in the state's troubled investigation fueled growing public fascination with the case against the double-amputee Olympian, who is charged with premeditated murder in the Valentine's Day slaying of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius, a sporting icon and source of inspiration to millions until the shooting last week, is backed by a high-powered team of lawyers and publicists. The abruptness of his fall, and its gruesome circumstances, have gripped a global audience and put South Africa's police and judicial system under the spotlight.

The man at the center of the storm sat in the dock during his bail hearing, mostly keeping his composure in contrast to slumped-over outbursts of weeping on previous days in court. In front of Pistorius, defense lawyer Barry Roux pounced on the apparent disarray in the state's case, laying out arguments that amounted to a test run for the full trial yet to come.

Roux pointed to what he called the "poor quality" of the state's investigation and raised the matter of intent, saying Pistorius and Steenkamp had a "loving relationship" and the athlete had no motive to plan her killing.

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Bombings in southern Indian city of Hyderabad kill at least 13, wound scores more

HYDERABAD, India (AP) -- A pair of bombs exploded in a crowded shopping area in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, killing at least 13 people and wounding scores of others in the worst bombing in the country in more than a year.

The blasts occurred about two minutes apart at around 7 p.m. Thursday outside a movie theater and a bus station, police said. Storefronts were shattered, motorcycles were covered in debris, and food and plates from a roadside restaurant were scattered on the ground near a tangle of dead bodies. Passersby rushed the wounded out of the area.

"This is a dastardly attack, the guilty will not go unpunished," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said. He appealed to the public to remain calm.

The bombs were attached to two bicycles about 150 meters (500 feet) apart in Dilsukh Nagar district, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters in New Delhi. The district is a usually crowded shopping area near a residential neighborhood.

When asked if the government had any suspects, Shinde responded: "We have to investigate."

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Police believe hotel altercation sparked car-to-car shooting, crash that killed 3 in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Bullets were flying from a black Range Rover at a gray Maserati as the vehicles raced toward a red light on the Las Vegas Strip.

Beneath the neon lights, police say, the Maserati ran a red light at one of the Strip's busiest intersections and smashed into a taxi that exploded into flames early Thursday, killing the two people inside.

Three more cars and a utility truck also collided at the crossroads home to Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Bally's, injuring at least six more people as the Range Rover sped off in the pre-dawn darkness.

The Maserati driver was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The dramatic scene that more than one tourist compared to something out of a violent action movie set off a frantic search for the occupants of the Range Rover that continued into the night, and marked the latest violent episode on the Strip since the beginning of the year.

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Autopsy performed on tourist whose body was found in Los Angeles hotel water tank

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- More testing must be done to determine the cause of death of a 21-year-old Canadian tourist whose body was found wedged in a water tank atop a downtown Los Angeles hotel, authorities said Thursday.

An autopsy performed Thursday didn't provide definitive answers into whether Elisa Lam was killed or if she fell victim to a bizarre accident. Coroner's officials will await toxicology tests before making a final determination.

Lam's body was found Tuesday in a water cistern atop the downtown Cecil Hotel. Police have called her death suspicious.

Guest complaints about low water pressure prompted a maintenance worker to make the gruesome discovery.

Before she died, hotel surveillance footage showed her inside an elevator pushing buttons and sticking her head out the doors, looking in both directions.