Officials: Brussels bombers may have rushed attack
BRUSSELS (AP) — As police hunted for the surviving Brussels bomber, evidence mounted Wednesday that the same Islamic State cell carried out the attacks in both Paris and Brussels, and that the militants may have launched this week’s slaughter in haste because they feared authorities were closing in on them.
On a day of mourning across Belgium following Tuesday’s bombings of the Brussels airport and subway that killed 31 people and wounded more than 270, new information emerged about the four attackers:
— European security officials said one of the suicide bombers was Najim Laachraoui, a Moroccan-born Belgian whom police have hunted as the suspected bombmaker in the Nov. 13 attacks on Paris by the Islamic State that killed 130 people.
— The other two suicide bombers were Belgian-born brothers, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, and his younger brother, Khalid, both known to the police as common criminals, not anti-Western radicals.
— Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ibrahim El Bakraoui was caught in June 2015 near Turkey’s border with Syria and deported, at his own request, to the Netherlands, with Ankara warning Dutch and Belgian officials that he was a “foreign terrorist fighter.” But other Turkish officials said he was released from Dutch custody due to lack of evidence of involvement in extremism.
IS trains 400 fighters to attack Europe in wave of bloodshed
PARIS (AP) — The Islamic State group has trained at least 400 fighters to target Europe in deadly waves of attacks, deploying interlocking terror cells like the ones that struck Brussels and Paris with orders to choose the time, place and method for maximum chaos, officials have told The Associated Press.
The network of agile and semiautonomous cells shows the reach of the extremist group in Europe even as it loses ground in Syria and Iraq.
The officials, including European and Iraqi intelligence officials and a French lawmaker who follows the jihadi networks, described camps in Syria, Iraq and possibly the former Soviet bloc where attackers are trained to target the West. Before being killed in a police raid, the ringleader of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks claimed he had entered Europe in a multinational group of 90 fighters, who scattered “more or less everywhere.”
But the biggest break yet in the Paris attacks investigation — the arrest on Friday of fugitive Salah Abdeslam— did not thwart the multipronged attack just four days later on the Belgian capital’s airport and subway system that left 31 people dead and an estimated 270 wounded. Three suicide bombers also died.
Just as in Paris, Belgian authorities were searching for at least one fugitive in Tuesday’s attacks — this time for a man wearing a white jacket who was seen on airport security footage with the two suicide attackers. The fear is that the man, whose identity Belgian officials say is not known, will follow Abdeslam’s path.
Cruz emboldened, but needs a near miracle to catch Trump
WAUWATOSA, Wis. (AP) — While Ted Cruz decried “gutter politics” against him, former Republican presidential contenders gave him a boost Wednesday, casting the Texas senator as the party’s last best chance to stop Donald Trump. The long and bitter 2016 campaign shifted to a new Midwestern battleground.
Ahead of Wisconsin’s April 5 primary, Gov. Scott Walker, who dropped out of the race last fall, declared that only Cruz can catch Trump as time runs short in the primary season. And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush gave Cruz his endorsement — a step perhaps designed to hurt Trump more than help the unpopular Texas senator.
“For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena,” said Bush, who was knocked out of the 2016 contest last month. “To win, Republicans need to make this election about proposing solutions to the many challenges we face, and I believe that we should vote for Ted as he will do just that.”
Indeed, as Democrat Hillary Clinton addressed rising national security concerns, the Republican contest was hit again by personal insults — this time involving the candidates’ families. Cruz slammed Trump during an appearance in the front-runner’s hometown for making a vague threat on Twitter the night before to “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife.
“Gutter politics,” Cruz said. Trump’s warning that he would disclose something about Heidi Cruz came in response to an ad by an outside political group that featured a provocative photo of Trump’s wife, Melania, when she was a model and before they were married. Trump misidentified the Cruz campaign as the source of the ad.
Blizzard shuts down Denver airport, closes highways
DENVER (AP) — A powerful spring blizzard stranded travelers at Denver’s airport and shut down hundreds of miles of highway in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska as it spread into the Midwest on Wednesday.
Snow blown by gusts up to around 50 mph made it unsafe for planes to land or take off at Denver International Airport, leading officials to close it around midday. The closure came hours after long flight delays caused by power outages at the airport’s fuel depot and deicing supply and the cancellation of about a third of the airport’s daily flights.
The last time a blizzard closed the airport was in 2006, for two days.
The system is moving to the northeast across the Plains and into Michigan. The worst effects of the storm were expected later in the day in South Dakota, but strong winds were in the forecast all day.
In Denver, the road to the airport was also impassable because of blowing snow. The outbound lanes reopened Wednesday afternoon, allowing passengers to escape to town, airport spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said.
Alleged sex abuse victim may testify at Hastert sentencing
CHICAGO (AP) — An alleged sex abuse victim of Dennis Hastert could testify about his emotional trauma next month at the former U.S. speaker’s sentencing in his hush-money case, according to a transcript of an unannounced court hearing this week during which the court linked sex-abuse allegations to the Illinois Republican for the first time.
Hastert, 74, pleaded guilty on Oct. 28 to violating bank laws as he sought to pay $3.5 million to ensure someone referred to in the 2015 indictment only as “Individual A” stayed quiet about past misconduct by Hastert against Individual A. The misconduct dated back decades to around the time Hastert was a high school wrestling coach.
The Associated Press and other media outlets, citing anonymous sources, previously reported that Hastert wanted to hide claims he sexually molested someone, but the issue hadn’t been raised in unsealed filings or in court until this week.
The transcript of Tuesday’s federal court hearing, provided Wednesday to the AP by the presiding judge’s court reporter, doesn’t mention Individual A or raise the prospect that that person might speak at sentencing. Instead, it recounts the judge speaking to prosecutors and attorneys about “Individual D.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block informs Judge Thomas M. Durkin that prosecutors only recently learned “Individual D” is an alleged victim and was leaning toward testifying at sentencing, the transcript says.
13 alibi witnesses, 20 years in prison _ and now, freedom
NEW YORK (AP) — When questioned over a murder, Richard Rosario named 13 people he said could back an alibi 1,000 miles long. But he spent 20 years in prison before the conviction was overturned, freeing him – at least for now.
Rosario wiped at his face and smiled Wednesday as a judge threw out his conviction in a 1996 New York City shooting that happened while Rosario says he was in Florida. Both his lawyers and prosecutors now agree his then-attorneys didn’t do enough to track down Rosario’s alibi witnesses and enlist them in his defense.
“I’ve been in prison for 20 years for a crime I didn’t commit,” said Rosario, who had lost multiple appeals. “My family didn’t deserve this. I didn’t deserve this, and nor did the family of the victim.”
Rosario hasn’t been cleared: Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark agreed to recommend dismissing his conviction, but not the charges themselves, while she reinvestigates the killing of 17-year-old Jorge Collazo, also called George Collazo. Prosecutors could ultimately decide to retry Rosario or to drop the charges.
“A modicum of justice has occurred today,” said one of his lawyers, Glenn Garber of the Exoneration Initiatve. But “he’s not been fully vindicated, and we hope he will be soon.”
Why a future Apple-FBI case may go very differently
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Although it fiercely opposes the FBI’s demand for help unlocking a San Bernardino shooter’s encrypted iPhone, Apple has never argued that it simply can’t do what the government wants. That might not be true for long.
At the moment, the San Bernardino case is on hold while the FBI evaluates an alternative method of getting into that phone. But experts say it’s almost certain that Apple and other tech companies will keep increasing the security of their products, making it harder or perhaps even impossible for them to answer government demands for customer data.
“If I were them, I would use any means possible to avoid having to answer these information requests,” said Anna Lysyanskaya, a computer scientist and cryptography expert at Brown University. “It’s bad for their business, and not just in the United States but in other countries where law enforcement cannot be trusted to follow the law.”
Smartphones and Internet services increasingly store a vast trove of personal information — everything from messages and photos to banking details to records of your movements. Apple won’t comment on specific future plans, although it says it’s constantly increasing security to protect that data from hackers and criminals. That’s why, for example, its latest mobile operating system won’t let anyone read files on an encrypted iPhone without knowing the user’s passcode.
Its intent, Apple says, isn’t to foil legitimate government investigations, but to protect its users against criminal hacking. In the San Bernardino case, the FBI wanted Apple to create a software tool that would override a “self-destruct” security feature that would activate after too many incorrect passcode attempts. Apple argued that creating such a tool would make all iPhones more vulnerable.
Wheels to Watch: Honda, Toyota, Buick show new vehicles
NEW YORK (AP) — From hot-selling SUVs to cool new small cars to electric vehicles and hybrids, the 2016 New York International Auto Show features a diverse lineup of new vehicles. The show officially opens to the public on Friday. About 1,000 vehicles will be on display:
Here are some of the buzz-worthy new cars and trucks at the show.
AUDI R8 SPYDER: Audi added the open-top R8 to its supercar lineup Wednesday, pulling a tarp off a yellow version of the car at the New York auto show. The Spyder has the same V10 engine as the R8 Coupe, but its hardtop folds mechanically behind the seats. The 5.2-liter, 540 horsepower engine can take the car to nearly 200 miles per hour, even with an open top. “I think this is quite cool,” said Dietmar Voggenreiter, board member for sales and marketing. Since the R8 was launched in 2008, the brand’s U.S. sales have gone from 80,000 per year to more than 200,000.
HONDA CIVIC HATCHBACK: Honda says the hatch is making a comeback in small U.S. cars. The automaker shows off a five-door Civic hatchback, and Senior Vice President Jeff Conrad says it will cater mainly to Generation Y (ages 21-35), which likes hatchback utility and sporty performance. The hot hatch gets a 174-horsepower turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It’s the first U.S. Civic hatch since 1995. Price wasn’t announced, but it’s due out in the fall.
DEMI LOVATO CIVIC: Singers Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas will headline the Civic concert tour this year, and keeping with tradition, Lovato got a chance to design and autograph her own Civic sedan exterior. Jonas, meanwhile, did the same with a Honda Grom motorcycle. Fans can enter a sweepstakes to win both vehicles.
Joe Garagiola, ex-player turned glib broadcaster, dies at 90
PHOENIX (AP) — Joe Garagiola’s nine-year baseball career was a modest one. His 57 years in broadcasting that followed made him one of the most popular figures in the sports world and beyond.
The man Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall called “one of the biggest personalities this game has ever seen” died Wednesday. He was 90.
The Diamondbacks announced Garagiola’s death before their exhibition game against San Francisco, and there were murmurs of shock and sadness at the ballpark. He had been in ill health in recent years.
Growing up in the Hill neighborhood of St. Louis not far from future Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, Garagiola went on to hit .257 during nine years in the majors. His highlight came early, getting a four-hit game in the 1946 World Series and helping the hometown Cardinals win the championship as a 20-year-old rookie.
“Not only was I not the best catcher in the major leagues, I wasn’t even the best catcher on my street,” Garagiola once remarked.
Brussels bomb brothers latest in string of sibling attackers
LONDON (AP) — The Tsarnaev brothers wreaked carnage in Boston. The Kouachi brothers attacked Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. In Brussels, officials say the El Bakraoui brothers struck the airport and metro this week, killing more than 30 people.
Several recent terror attacks have been inspired, and possibly directed, by the Islamic State group, but executed by close-knit gang of friends — and often brothers.
Blood ties have long been a feature of criminal networks, from the outlaws Frank and Jesse James to the family structure of the Mafia. The phenomenon extends to terror plotters for reasons that experts say are both logistical and social.
Individual radicalization often comes through close friends and family members, rather than just external teaching and preaching. And the tight sibling bond can be a tough nut for law enforcement to crack.
“A terror cell made up of two brothers cannot be infiltrated. It’s the most secure network possible,” said Claude Moniquet, a French security analyst who works in Brussels.
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