Smollett indicted on 16 counts stemming from reported attack
CHICAGO (AP) — A grand jury in Chicago indicted "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett on 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs.
The Cook County grand jury indictment dated Thursday and made public on Friday gives details of the disorderly conduct charge against Smollett. It elaborates on the allegation that he falsely reported he was attacked on Jan. 28 by two masked men who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at the black and openly gay actor, beat him, threw an unidentified liquid chemical on him and looped a rope tied like a noose around his neck.
The indictment — eight counts from what he told the officer who responded to the report of the attack and eight for what he later told a detective — comes a little more than two weeks after prosecutors announced one felony count of the same charge.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Chicago police initially investigated the incident as a possible hate crime but later said Smollett staged the attack, recruiting two brothers to carry it out, because he was unhappy with his pay on the Fox show.
An attorney for Smollett, Mark Geragos, called the indictment "prosecutorial overkill." He said Smollett "adamantly maintains his innocence."
Trump surveys devastation, pays respects to tornado victims
BEAUREGARD, Ala. (AP) — Standing near the slab that's all that is left of one family's garage, President Donald Trump on Friday surveyed the devastation wrought by a powerful tornado that ripped through a rural Alabama town, uprooting trees, tearing homes from their foundations and killing nearly two dozen people.
"We saw things that you wouldn't believe," said Trump, overlooking a debris field strewn with branches and other wreckage in Beauregard, which bore the brunt of Sunday's storm. Mangled metal siding, wood planks, piping and electric wires lay strewn on the ground, along with remnants of everyday life: clothing, a sofa, a bottle of Lysol cleaner and a welcome mat encrusted with dirt.
Trump and the first lady spent the afternoon meeting with survivors, victims' families and volunteers trying to rebuild after the massive tornado carved a path of destruction nearly a mile wide, killing 23 people, including four children and a couple in their 80s, with ten victims belonging to a single extended family.
The trip was a familiar one for Trump, who, now in the third year of his presidency, has traveled to the sites of numerous disasters and tragedies, including hurricanes, shootings and wildfires.
The day began with an aerial survey of the area by helicopter, which flew over swaths of land where trees had been flattened. Trump and his wife, Melania, also visited a church serving as a makeshift disaster relief center for survivors. He later observed a moment of silence before white wooden crosses commemorating each of the victims.
International Women's Day: Strikes, protests and holidays
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Marches and protests were held Friday across the globe to mark International Women's Day under the slogan #BalanceforBetter, with calls for a more gender-balanced world.
The day, sponsored by the United Nations since 1975, celebrates women's achievements and aims to further their rights.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a commemoration at U.N. headquarters in New York that "remarkable progress on women's rights and leadership" in recent decades has sparked a backlash from "an entrenched patriarchy."
And he warned that "nationalist, populist and austerity agendas add to inequality with policies that curtail women's rights and cut social services."
"I do not accept a world that tells my granddaughters that economic equality can wait for their granddaughter's granddaughters," Guterres said. "I call for a new vision of equality and opportunity so that half the world's population can contribute to all the world's success."
Biden eyes fundraising challenge amid new sense of urgency
NEW YORK (AP) — On the cusp of another White House run, Joe Biden faces a daunting challenge that could complicate his path to the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination: money.
Those close to the former vice president believe he would start off at a fundraising disadvantage compared to would-be rivals, whose campaigns have benefited from an early flood of small-dollar donations from the most liberal wing of the party. Biden, a 76-year-old lifetime politician with strong connections to the party's establishment, would be forced to rely on an "old-school grind-it-out" plan to generate campaign cash from wealthy individual donors, according to a person with direct knowledge of Biden's thinking.
Questions about money are among the nagging issues Biden is still considering as he weighs launching a campaign. He's decamped this week to St. Croix, a favorite Biden family vacation spot in the Caribbean, to discuss the remaining roadblocks with his wife, Jill.
Biden has long disliked the time-intensive process of political fundraising. But with virtually no campaign operation in key states, he'd need to generate millions of dollars in a matter of weeks should he enter what is expected to be the most expensive presidential campaign in U.S. history.
"He obviously has a lot of friends among the Democratic donor community," said David Axelrod, one of former President Barack Obama's top political advisers. "But fundraising today is turbo-charged by social media. He's not of the social media generation."
How Facebook stands to profit from its 'privacy' push
At first glance, Mark Zuckerberg's new "privacy-focused vision " for Facebook looks like a transformative mission statement from a CEO under pressure to reverse years of battering over its surveillance practices and privacy failures.
But critics say the announcement obscures Facebook's deeper motivations: To expand lucrative new commercial services, continue monopolizing the attention of users, develop new data sources to track people and frustrate regulators who might be eyeing a breakup of the social-media behemoth.
Facebook "wants to be the operating system of our lives," said Siva Vaidhyanathan, director of media studies at the University of Virginia.
Zuckerberg's plan, outlined Wednesday, expands Facebook's commitment to private messaging, in sharp contrast with his traditional focus on public sharing. Facebook would combine its instant-messaging services WhatsApp and Instagram Direct with its core Messenger app so that users of one could message people on the others, and would expand the use of encrypted messaging to keep outsiders — including Facebook — from reading the messages.
The plan also calls for using those messaging services to expand Facebook's role in e-commerce and payments. A Facebook spokesperson later said it was too early to answer detailed questions about the company's messaging plans.
Chelsea Manning jailed for refusing to testify on WikiLeaks
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who served years in prison for leaking one of the largest troves of classified documents in U.S. history, was sent to jail Friday for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.
U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton ordered Manning to jail for civil contempt of court after a brief hearing in federal court in Alexandria in which Manning confirmed she has no intention of testifying. She told the judge she "will accept whatever you bring upon me."
Manning has said she objects to the secrecy of the grand jury process and already revealed everything she knows at her court-martial. She said prosecutors have granted her immunity for her testimony, which eliminates her ability to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
"I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech," she said in a statement released after she was taken into custody.
The judge said she will remain jailed until she testifies or until the grand jury concludes its work.
Trump budget will seek funds for border wall, Space Force
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will be making a significant request for border wall funds and seeking money to stand up Space Force as a new branch of the military in the White House budget being released next week, an administration official said Friday.
For the first time, Trump plans to stick with the strict spending caps imposed years ago, even though lawmakers have largely avoided them with new budget deals. That will likely trigger a showdown with Congress.
The official said the president's plan promises to balance the budget in 15 years.
Trump will seek $750 billion for defense, a boost for the military, while cutting non-defense discretionary spending by 5 percent, said the official, who was unauthorized to discuss the document ahead of its release and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Budgets are mainly seen as blueprints for White House priorities. But they are often panned on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers craft the appropriation bills that eventually fund the government, if the president signs them into law.
Court denies new trial in 'Serial' podcast murder case
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland's highest court denied a new trial Friday for a man whose murder conviction was chronicled in the hit podcast "Serial."
In a 4-3 opinion, the Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court that Adnan Syed's legal counsel was deficient in failing to investigate an alibi witness, but it disagreed that the deficiency prejudiced the case. The court said Syed waived his ineffective counsel claim.
The court reversed a Court of Special Appeals' judgment, sending the case back to that court with directions to reverse a Baltimore Circuit Court judgment granting a new trial.
Syed is serving a life sentence after he was convicted in 2000 of strangling 17-year-old Hae Min Lee and burying her body in a Baltimore park. More than a decade later, the popular "Serial" podcast brought Syed's case to millions of listeners with its debut 2014 season. The show revealed little-known evidence and attracted millions of listeners, shattering podcast-streaming and downloading records.
In 2016, a lower court ordered a retrial for Syed on grounds that his attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, who died in 2004, didn't contact an alibi witness and provided ineffective counsel. The state appealed. The special appeals court upheld the lower court's ruling last year and the state appealed that decision, too.
Actor Jan-Michael Vincent, known for 'Airwolf,' dies at 73
Actor Jan-Michael Vincent, the "Airwolf" television star whose sleek good looks belied a troubled personal life, has died. He was 73.
A death certificate shows that Vincent died of cardiac arrest on Feb. 10, 2019, in an Asheville, North Carolina, hospital. The certificate signed by a doctor says he died of natural causes and no autopsy was performed.
It wasn't clear why it took several weeks for news of the death to surface before it was first reported Friday by TMZ. Messages left at phone listings for Vincent and his wife weren't immediately returned Friday.
Born in 1945 in Denver, Colorado, Vincent starred in such films as 1972's "The Mechanic" and 1978's "Hooper," in which he played a stuntman opposite Burt Reynolds. Off-screen, his handsomeness earned him a spot on a cosmetic surgeon's "Ten Best Noses" list in the late 1970s.
He also starred in the 1983 television mini-series "Winds of War" as the love interest of a character played by Ali MacGraw, "piling up enormous ratings," according to a contemporary Associated Press account. He earned a Golden Globe nomination.
Judge rules against NCAA in federal antitrust lawsuit
A judge ruled against the NCAA on Friday night in a federal antitrust lawsuit, saying football and basketball players should be permitted to receive more compensation from schools but only if the benefits are tied to education.
The ruling Friday night from U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California, said the NCAA cannot "limit compensation or benefits related to education." That means more scholarship money to pursue postgraduate degrees or finish undergraduate degrees, and items that could be considered school supplies such as computers.
The plaintiffs in the so-called Alston cases were seeking much more. Plaintiffs had asked the judge to lift all NCAA caps on compensation and to allow schools to provide benefits beyond a scholarship to college athletes. The goal was to create a free market, where conferences set rules for compensating athletes, but this ruling still allows the NCAA to prohibit cash compensation untethered to education-related expenses.
"It's still significant that a federal judge ruled the NCAA violated antitrust law, but the remedy is relatively narrow and this is certainly not the sea change that the plaintiffs were looking for in college sports," said Gabe Feldman director of the Tulane University sports law program.
The claim against the NCAA and the 11 conferences that have participated at the highest level of college football was originally brought by former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston and later merged with similar lawsuits, including a notable case brought by former Clemson football player Martin Jenkins.