National News Archives for 2016-03

Utah Governor Signs Bill Requiring Abortion Anesthesia

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The governor signed a bill Monday that makes Utah the first state to require doctors to give anesthesia to women having an abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later.

 

Law

 

The bill signed by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert is based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that point.

 

Many doctors in Utah and across the country are concerned that the requirement could increase the health risks to women by giving them unnecessary heavy sedation in order to protect a fetus from pain that it may or may not feel.

 

Dr. Sean Esplin of Intermountain Healthcare in Utah said anesthesia or an analgesic would need to go through the woman in order to reach the fetus. Doctors could give a woman general anesthesia, which would make her unconscious and likely require a breathing tube, or a heavy dose of narcotics.

 

No other U.S. state has passed this same law, said Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the abortion-rights nonprofit Guttmacher Institute. Montana lawmakers passed a similar law in 2015 requiring fetal anesthesia before surgeries, including abortions, performed after 20 or more weeks of gestation, but its Democratic governor vetoed the measure.

 

Twelve states ban abortions after around 20 weeks of gestation, while a handful of other states give women the option of having anesthesia.

 

Previous Utah law gave women the choice to have anesthesia during an abortion.

 

The new law by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, targets a small subset of women who have elective abortions beginning at 20 weeks. State law normally allows abortions until viability, which is at about 22 weeks.

But it could affect women in many other medical situations.

 

Utah law defines abortions in part as "the intentional termination or attempted termination of human pregnancy after implantation of a fertilized ovum through a medical procedure carried out by a physician or through a substance used under the direction of a physician."

 

David Turok of the University of Utah's obstetrics and gynecology department said that could apply to instances in which a woman is past her due date so the doctor induces labor or there's a problem with the pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia, so it's safer to deliver the baby early. These common procedures could now require general anesthesia, he said.

 

"You never give those medicines if you don't have to," Turok said.

 

Laura Bunker of the conservative group United Families International said if there is any chance a fetus feels pan at 20 weeks, doctors should do everything possible to make sure they are comfortable.

 

The new law would not apply to women who must have an abortion because their life is at risk or the fetus will not survive outside the womb.

 

Utah Medical Association CEO Michelle McOmber said her organization feels neutral toward the legislation. The association convinced Bramble to change its language from saying a fetus "is capable of experiencing pain," to it "may be capable of experiencing pain." She said the association would have preferred that the proposal stated it is inconclusive whether or not the fetus feels pain.

 

Bramble initially sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks entirely, but he changed course after the Legislature's attorneys warned him that any such measure would likely be unconstitutional.

 

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2 New York siblings are among the dead in Brussels attacks

 

NEW YORK (AP) -- Two New York City siblings are among the dead in the attacks in Brussels, their family said Friday.

 

NY Siblings

 

Alexander and Sascha Pinczowski, Dutch nationals who lived in the U.S., were headed home to the states when a bomb exploded at the airport Tuesday.

 

Alexander, 29, was on the phone with his mother in Holland when the line went dead, said James Cain, whose daughter Cameron was engaged to Alexander.

"We received confirmation this morning from Belgian authorities and the Dutch embassy of the positive identification of the remains of Alexander and Sascha from the terrorist bombing at the Brussels Airport," Cain said on behalf of the Pinczowski family. "We are grateful to have closure on this tragic situation, and are thankful for the thoughts and prayers from all. The family is in the process of making arrangements."

 

Alexander Pinczowski had traveled to Holland to work on a craft-related business that he and Cameron were going to start together, Cain said.

 

The couple met six years ago while taking summer courses in Durham, North Carolina. They hadn't set a wedding date but had planned to marry within the year, Cain said.

 

He called Alexander "intimidatingly smart, a brilliant young man."

 

Sascha Pinczowski, 26, was a 2015 graduate of Marymount Manhattan College in New York with a degree in business. She spent last summer as an intern at a catering company, Shiraz Events.

 

Shiraz Events President Shai Tertner called her "a bright, hardworking young woman, with a great career ahead of her."

 

Both siblings had hoped to obtain U.S. citizenship one day, said Cain, a retired ambassador to Denmark.

Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that New York had lost "two of our own" in the attacks.

 

"Two young siblings from our city were taken from us far too soon, and our hearts break for the family and friends of Sascha and Alexander," de Blasio said in a statement. "New York City has shown time and again that we will not succumb to the threat of terrorism, and we will not live in fear. Today we vow to continue standing up for freedom and democracy in honor of those we have lost."

 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also extended his sympathies to the family.

 

"Their lives were cut short by cowards who have chosen extremism and hate instead of peace and unity. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend our deepest prayers and condolences to the Pinczowski family, as well as all those who lost loved ones in Tuesday's heartbreaking attacks," Cuomo said.

 

The bombings in Brussels at the airport and in the subway killed 31 people and injured nearly 300.

 

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Banks, Dam Targeted by Iranian Hackers, US Says; 7 Charged

 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. charged seven hackers linked to the Iranian government with executing large-scale coordinated cyberattacks on dozens of banks as well as a small dam outside New York City - intrusions that law enforcement officials said reached into America's infrastructure, disrupted the nation's financial system and cost tens of millions in damage.

 

Bank and Dam Attacks

 

Indictments announced Thursday by the Justice Department show a determination by overseas hackers to cripple vital American interests, officials said, and demonstrated the first time the FBI attributed a breach of a U.S. computer system that controls critical infrastructure to a nation-state actor.

 

The hackers are accused of infecting thousands of people's computers with malware to create a network of zombie computers they used to overwhelm servers of major institutions to knock them offline. Those included the Bank of America, NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange.

 

"The attacks were relentless, systematic and widespread," said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "They threatened our economic well-being and our ability to compete fairly in the global marketplace, both of which are directly linked to our national security."

 

One of the alleged hackers is accused of repeatedly gaining access to the control system of the Bowman Avenue Dam, a small flood-control structure in Rye Brook, about 20 miles north of New York City. Officials termed his access "a frightening frontier on cybercrime," and said the hacker would have been able to operate a digitally controlled sluice gate, flooding portions of the city of Rye, but the gate had been disconnected for maintenance.

 

The hacker was still able to gain information about the dam's operations, including its water level, temperature and the sluice gate.

 

While that attack did no harm, one official said the hacker obtained knowledge about the computer system that could be used on other dams and infrastructure. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly. Computer systems, such as the one controlling the dam, are considered the backbone or core of modern industries including transportation, energy, oil and gas and manufacturing.

 

The indictments unsealed Thursday stem from intrusions between 2011 and 2013 that officials say targeted 46 victims, disabling bank websites and interfering with customers' ability to do online banking. The attacks, which occurred sporadically over 176 days, cost the institutions tens of millions of dollars in remediation costs, but no customers lost money or had their personal information stolen.

 

The accused hackers worked for two Iranian computer companies linked to the Iranian government, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the U.S. said. Charges include violating U.S. laws on computer hacking and gaining unauthorized access to a protected computer.

 

The seven defendants are Ahmad Fathi, 37; Hamid Firoozi, 34; Amin Shokohi, 25; Sadegh Ahmadzadega, 23; Omid Ghaffarinia, 25; Sina Keissar, 25, and Nader Saedi, 26. Faroozi is charged alone for hacking the dam. Shokohi received credit from the Iranian government toward his mandatory military service for his work in the attacks, the U.S. alleges.

 

None of the individuals is in American custody and it's unclear whether they will ever be arrested or if criminal indictments in absentia are effective in combatting such crimes.

 

The Justice Department in May 2014 indicted five Chinese military officials suspected of hacking into several major American companies, including U.S. Steel and Westinghouse, and stealing trade secrets. None has been brought to the U.S. to face charges.

The Justice Department is determined to remove a cloak of "perceived anonymity" long enjoyed by foreign hackers and has focused on doing so since 2012, said John Carlin, the department's top national security official.

 

"We want them looking over their shoulder, both when they travel and when they sit at a keyboard," said FBI Director James Comey.

 

The criminal case comes amid warming relations between the U.S. and Iran following last year's nuclear agreement.

 

Since rolling back its nuclear program this year, Iran has regained access to some $100 billion in overseas assets and the two countries' top diplomats have been meeting and discussing global matters at their most intensive level since Iran's 1979 overthrow of the U.S.-backed shah.

 

Significant tensions remain, however. Iran has conducted several ballistic missile tests in violation of a U.N. ban, prompting the latest U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic on Thursday.

 

In 2010, the so-called Stuxnet virus disrupted the operation of thousands of centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility in Iran. Iran says that assault and other computer virus attacks are part of a concerted effort by Israel, the U.S. and their allies to undermine its nuclear program through covert operations.

 

The latest Iranian attacks were a reminder of U.S. vulnerabilities, said Luke Dembosky, who supervised national security-related cyber cases at the Justice Department until March 1. "We were very fortunate that this access did not lead to something catastrophic, but the next one might."

 

In December, hackers linked to Russia used a coordinated attack to take down part of Ukraine's power grid, blacking out more than 225,000 people after hitting regional electric power distribution companies. U.S. officials called that the realization of a nightmare scenario - that hackers can remotely take down a critical system on which a country depends.

 

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Colleges Face Legal Backlash From Men Accused of Sex Crimes

 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- After years of complaints that they weren't taking sexual assault reports seriously, colleges are finally doing so - and finding themselves slammed with lawsuits from men who say they were unfairly suspended or otherwise punished.

 

Colleges Sexual

 

The schools are feeling caught in the middle.

 

"We're trying to walk the razor's edge between being more attentive to the issue but still being fair to all our students," said Dana Scaduto, general counsel at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, who has testified before Congress on the issue.

 

At least 75 men have sued their schools since 2013, complaining largely of reverse discrimination and unfair disciplinary proceedings. Most were never charged with a crime because the accuser didn't go to police or authorities decided there wasn't enough evidence.

 

This month, former Yale University basketball player Jack Montague said he planned to sue after he was expelled over a sexual assault allegation, and two University of Oregon basketball players suspended over 2014 rape accusations sued for $10 million each after prosecutors declined to bring charges.

 

A federal judge in Rhode Island last month allowed a case to move forward by a Brown University student suspended for 2 1/2 years over a sexual assault accusation.

 

The get-tough approach by colleges is attributed largely to a 2011 letter from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. The letter told schools they must promptly investigate allegations of sexual assault and harassment, even if the accuser does not make a complaint to the institution.

 

It instructed schools to rely on the preponderance-of-evidence standard used in civil cases, instead of the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard employed in criminal trials. That means a student can be disciplined if the college finds it more likely than not that an assault occurred.

 

Schools that do not comply can face an investigation and a cutoff of federal money. As of mid-March, the Office for Civil Rights was conducting 219 such investigations at 173 schools.

 

Known as the "Dear Colleague Letter," it has been hailed by advocates who say many schools are now moving in the right direction to address campus sexual assaults.

 

"For a very long time, there was no due process for victims. Victims were told to withdraw from school. Victims were told to take the semester off," said Colby Bruno of the nonprofit Victim Rights Law Center. Now, "yes, there are more decisions against perpetrators. Yes, perpetrators are being held accountable. And that is going to bother people."

 

Advocates for the accused say that school disciplinary panels are unequipped to handle such serious allegations and that colleges have gone so far to accommodate alleged victims that they are trampling on the rights of the accused.

 

Under the federal guidance, when a school learns of allegations of sexual assault or harassment, it must take immediate steps to ensure the victim's learning environment is free of hostility.

 

The accused can be removed from a class, dorm or campus even before a disciplinary hearing is held so that the accuser does not have to cross paths with her alleged attacker. Disciplinary proceedings can take months, meaning the accused can miss a year of school before the case is decided.

 

Advocates for both accusers and the accused say college disciplinary processes are often vague and applied inconsistently. Some schools have a single investigator; others have a panel with faculty members. Some include students. Some allow lawyers, others don't.

 

Some critics have said that universities should not be handling such cases at all and that sex crimes should instead be reported to police.

 

But victims' advocates and many schools oppose that, saying it would discourage women from coming forward. Also, police investigations can take months, and prosecutions longer, meaning some cases might not be resolved before graduation.

 

Andrew Miltenberg, who represents the Brown student and close to 100 other male students accused of campus sexual assaults, said schools have become "hyper-aggressive" since the Dear Colleague Letter.

 

A common thread in his cases, Miltenberg said, is that they had some element of a consensual encounter, in which the two were dating or knew each other. Alcohol is often involved, sometimes a year or more has elapsed, and there are rarely witnesses.

 

"Part of the problem is they're redefining what consent means," he said. "Now all of that adds up to more cases, more allegations and more hearings, and this is where the schools are in a tough spot and can and should be doing better."

 

Such accusations can brand a student for life or put his education on hold for years, Miltenberg said.

"I even have Ivy league students who've been suspended who can't get into a local community college during their suspension," he said.

 

Miltenberg represents Paul Nungesser, who sued Columbia University, saying it violated his rights when it allowed fellow student Emma Sulkowicz to obtain class credit for her "Mattress Project," in which she carried around the mattress on which she said he raped her. Nungesser denied the accusation and was found not responsible by the school disciplinary process.

 

Nungesser said in his lawsuit that he was branded a "serial rapist" and forced to return to his native Germany because he couldn't get a job in the U.S. A judge this month dismissed the lawsuit but said Nungesser may refile some claims.

 

Sulkowicz went to police with her allegation against Nungesser, but they did not bring charges. She has said the campus disciplinary process was badly mishandled.

 

In a 2014 essay in Time magazine titled "My Rapist Is Still on Campus," she wrote of crying and hyperventilating when she learned he had asked permission to work in the darkroom during a photography class she was taking.

 

"As long as he's on campus with me, he can continue to harass me," she wrote.

 

Scaduto, of Dickinson College, questioned whether colleges are equipped to handle such matters.

 

"I don't want to step away from the issues," she said, "but I don't know that we have the training the skill the resources to do it in-house anymore."

 

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Fire Leads to Caesars Palace Hotel Evacuation on Vegas Strip

 

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- An escalator fire sent smoke billowing into parts of Las Vegas' glitzy Caesars Palace, sending three hotel workers to the hospital with smoke inhalation and leading to an evacuation early Monday, officials said.

 

Ceasars Las Vegas

 

The blaze reported about 3:30 a.m. came from the top of the main escalators at the promenade level into the hotel's convention center and spread to curtains, Clark County Fire Department said. Smoke swept from a ballroom area into the casino, forcing the evacuation of the convention center and nearby areas.

 

Evacuations affected 140 hotel rooms on three floors of the Palace Tower for about two hours, Caesars Entertainment Corp. spokeswoman Jennifer Forkish said. Some shops nearby and a part of the casino floor also were briefly evacuated.

 

The three employees were treated and released from a Las Vegas hospital later in the morning, a University Medical Center spokeswoman said. No patrons or hotel guests were injured.

 

Robert Merritt, 54, who was on vacation with his family from the Chicago area, said his wife and daughter were staying in a Palace Tower room that was not evacuated.

He said they were startled by the alarms, truck sirens and fire department response but were not given any directions or had any communication from the hotel. They decided to stay in the room to wait for instructions.

 

"I just think they made a horrific mistake by not getting basic communications to people in Palace Tower," he said. "I was given the Disney PR line, which is: 'This is a happy place. There's nothing wrong.'"

 

Emergency crews don't have the manpower to alert every person in a partially evacuated building if they are not already affected, and doing so could cause unnecessary panic, Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Buchanan said. There also is no specific guidance or standard procedure on how property owners should communicate with unaffected guests, he said.

 

The hotel, which has not commented on its guest communication strategy, said the fire took about 25 minutes to contain and all hotel and casino operations have since returned to normal.

 

The fire department said it is investigating the cause of the fire, which caused damage estimated at $100,000.

Caesars Palace had no known building safety violations, and all safeguards were activated during the fire as designed, the county's building department said. The casino-hotel also has had regular building and fire inspections.

 

The state Mechanical Section of the Division on Industrial Relations, which inspects escalators, didn't immediately have comment.

 

It's the second Strip fire in recent days. There was a grease fire at a restaurant and bar at the Treasure Island hotel-casino Friday morning that also required an evacuation.

 

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To Woo Students, More Colleges Now Hand-Deliver Acceptances

 

FRANKLIN, Mass. (AP) -- The visitors walking up her family's driveway mystified Maya Wolf. Four wore blue jackets. One was in a lion mascot costume. Then, as it clicked, she reached to her mouth in surprise.

 

Accepted

 

"Congratulations on your acceptance," said one of the men, who introduced himself as Grant Gosselin, the admissions dean for Wheaton College. He handed Wolf an oversize white envelope. "We've heard great things about you."

 

Instead of mailing an acceptance letter, Wheaton College had sent its president, admissions chief, the school mascot and others to surprise the 17-year-old Wolf on Tuesday. At the same time, nine other teams of employees from the Massachusetts school were scattered across New England delivering letters to a total of 75 students. After wiping away tears and catching her breath, Wolf thanked her visitors and beamed for a group photo.

 

Wheaton's blitz was remarkable in scope, but it joins a wave of colleges that have started to deliver small batches of acceptance letters in the style of a surprise television sweepstakes.

 

For the first time last year, the University of Maryland sent a bus of employees to surprise six students. A month later, the University at Albany in New York brought members of the marching band to one student's home, while the president of Rowan University in New Jersey visited five students. The California Institute of Technology made its first personal delivery this year.

 

In most cases, the unexpected visits ended up in flashy online videos produced by the schools.

 

"The message we're trying to send is that Wheaton is a place that's intensely personal," Gosselin said. "We certainly won't shy away from any exposure it brings, but the No. 1 goal is to help those students."

 

Experts say the idea is spreading as schools face tougher competition for students. By adding a personal touch, colleges hope to boost the share of students who pick them, known as the yield.

 

Some schools choose a random sample of students to visit, or limit it by geographic area. Others try to curry favor with top students who are also likely to get attention from competing institutions.

 

"If a hand-delivered acceptance letter gets a college a leg up on the chance of being able to enroll that student and capture the yield, they're going to do it," said Phillip Trout, president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

 

The vast majority of letters are still dispatched by mail or email, but in the era of social media, even visits to one or two students can be shared with many more. Online videos capturing scenes of shocked and overjoyed students have attracted thousands of views.

 

"They're the most popular thing that we do in our social media effort," said Kirk Brennan, director of admission at the University of Southern California, which has made personal deliveries since 2012. "We've now made it a regular part of our social media strategy."

 

Amid the scramble to attract more students, other aspects of the admission process are changing, too. Even the standardized letter, once a simple finale to an anxious wait, has gotten a glitzy update at many colleges.

 

Iowa State University sends customized videos to accepted students, starring a news anchor who congratulates them in a mock TV broadcast. Others send boxes of merchandise, or mail out letters weeks earlier than in the past, hoping to reach the best students first.

 

Alongside the hard currency of scholarship money, some experts say, personal attention has become a soft currency that colleges wield to show they have big character, if not big coffers.

 

"Some schools are trying to lure students with extra money, which resonates, but I think sometimes students and families pick a school for the wrong reason," said Tim Lee, director of admissions for the University at Albany.

 

But not all schools are interested in making the admission process a grand production. Tulane University in Louisiana prides itself on a no-frills acceptance message.

 

"We're not all about the crazy bells and whistles," said Jeff Schiffman, interim director of admission at Tulane. "It becomes an arms race over which school can do the most over-the-top stuff."

 

"At the end of the day, just getting admitted to the institution is special," he added.

 

Schiffman also questions whether a hand-delivered letter can sway an applicant's decision, but some students insist it matters.

 

Before he got a surprise acceptance from USC last year, Nicolaus Jakowec was seriously considering several schools. But after getting the personal delivery at his Los Angeles high school, he quickly decided to enroll at USC.

 

"It definitely blew all the other schools out of the water," said Jakowec, 18, a freshman. "I almost felt compelled to go there once I got invited personally."

For Wolf, who applied to five other schools besides Wheaton, the surprise was a lighthearted moment to end a stressful wait. But she isn't ready to commit quite yet.

 

"I'm definitely very excited, but they're the first school I've gotten a letter back from," she said. "I still have a lot of decisions to make."

 

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Indiana Deputy, Suspect Dead After Gunfight; 2nd Deputy Hurt

 

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- A sheriff's deputy and a suspect have died following a gunfight early Sunday inside a mobile home that also left a second deputy injured, authorities said.

 

Howard County Deputy Carl Koontz died at an Indianapolis hospital after being shot about 12:30 a.m. Sunday at a mobile home in Russiaville, Sheriff Steven Rogers said during a news conference Sunday afternoon outside of an Indianapolis hospital.

 

Indiana Deputy

 

A second deputy, Sgt. Jordan Buckley, also was shot and was in stable condition, alert and conscious, Indiana State Police said. Both officers had been wearing body armor, and fellow officers took them out of the mobile home to provide first aid.

 

SWAT officers found an unidentified suspect dead inside the mobile home about two hours after the gunfight, Rogers said.

 

Koontz and Buckley were serving arrest and search warrants at the home about 60 miles north of Indianapolis, Rogers said. No one answered officers' knocks at the door.

 

"They got inside the residence, and they were met with gunfire," Rogers said. "As police officers we anticipate things like that, but it comes as a total surprise to us.

"We plan for it, but you're never fully prepared, of course, for that situation," he said.

 

The sheriff said he could not recall another death in the line of duty during his 46 years with the Howard County department. Koontz had been a deputy for less than three years, and had a wife and a child about 8 months old.

 

"He was an outstanding officer, he had great promise with our agency, and he's going to be greatly missed," Rogers said.

 

Rogers said that officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect, but he didn't know which officers did so and it wasn't clear how many were inside the mobile home during the gunfight.

 

After removing neighboring residents from their homes and trying to contact the suspected shooter for two hours, SWAT officers found a person dead inside the mobile home, Rogers said. The name of the dead person and the cause of death have not been released.

Investigators had learned a suspect wanted for possession of a syringe in neighboring Clinton County was hiding at the mobile home and obtained the warrants, Rogers said.

 

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Indiana Town Grateful All Survived Basketball Team Bus Crash

DEMOTTE, Ind. (AP) -- It was not the celebration planned, but a northwest Indiana community was grateful on Saturday that all 27 people on board a school bus carrying a high school basketball team survived a crash that left the bus upside down in a ditch with part of its roof smashed in.

 

School Bus

 

The bus carrying the Griffith High School boys basketball team to a state tournament semi-final game rolled over after a woman driver who had spilled her drink sideswiped the bus on Interstate 65.

 

Griffith High School Superintendent Peter Morikis said freshman boys basketball coach David Garrett was in stable condition at a Chicago suburban hospital. All 20 of the students had been treated and released as well as three coaches, the team trainer, a ball boy and the bus driver.

 

"When I saw pictures of the bus, my heart sank," Griffith Schools Superintendent Peter Morikis said in a statement. "We are grateful tonight that, despite a multitude of bumps, bruises, gashes and scrapes, every person involved in the crash has survived."

 

Dominique T. Small, 23, of Terre Haute, Indiana, was southbound in the left lane when the lid of her drink came off and spilled on her. Small tried to grab the drink but lost control of her 2001 Kia and sideswiped the bus, which was southbound in the right lane, said State Police Sgt. Ann Wojas.

 

Small and a passenger in her car also were taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries, Wojas said.

Mark Kadowaki, a surgeon from North Carolina who was traveling to Wisconsin, said he arrived on the scene shortly after the accident and found the bus "upside down."

 

"There were still some people trapped in the bus," Kadowaki told The Times. "One gentleman had to be extracted from the bus by the emergency crew. Everyone else was able to come out of the bus under their own power or with assistance."

 

The Indiana High School Athletic Association said on its Twitter account that the team's game against Marion was postponed. Officials said they'll talk with Griffith High School administrators Sunday about a possible makeup date.

 

Authorities said the investigation is ongoing and no one had been ticketed or charged as of Saturday evening.

 

Griffith Public Schools will have counselors available to students and staff next week to help heal the emotional wounds.

 

A prayer service was scheduled for Sunday at a local park in the community of about 16,500 people.

 

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How Chicago Racked up a $662 Million Police Misconduct Bill

 

CHICAGO (AP) -- In this city's troubled history of police misconduct, Eric Caine's case may be unrivaled: It took more than 25 years and $10 million to resolve.

 

Chicago

 

For decades, he maintained he didn't brutally kill an elderly couple. The police, he said, beat him into a false confession. Locked up at age 20, he was freed at 46, bewildered by a world he no longer recognized. Caine ultimately was declared innocent, sued the city and settled for $10 million. But victory brought little peace to his troubled mind.

 

"They wouldn't give anybody that large amount of money if they didn't believe that person was wronged," he says. "But I also look at it as a way for them to just want me to go away. ... Nobody cares if I live or die. I'm a shell of a human being."

 

Caine is one of the more dramatic examples of huge police settlements that have tarnished the city in recent years. Among them: A one-time death row inmate brutally beaten by police: $6.1 million. An unarmed man fatally shot by an officer as he lay on the ground: $4.1 million.

 

And last year, the family of Laquan McDonald, the black teenager shot 16 times by a white officer, received $5 million. His death, captured in a shocking video, led to a murder charge against the officer, the police chief's firing and thunderous street protests with calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's resignation.

 

In all, Chicago has paid a staggering sum - about $662 million - on police misconduct since 2004, including judgments, settlements and outside legal fees, according to city records. The payouts, for everything from petty harassment to police torture, have brought more financial misery to a city already drowning in billions of dollars of pension debt.

 

The U.S. Justice Department's recent decision to investigate the Chicago police - fallout from the McDonald case - has helped focus new attention on this agonizing record of misconduct and the surprising lack of consequences. Few officers accused of wrongdoing have been disciplined in recent years.

 

So how did the city get to the point where a massive police misconduct bill has almost become the cost of doing business? And why has bad behavior gone unchecked?

 

There's no single answer, but Alderman Howard Brookins Jr., who's required to approve settlements exceeding $100,000 as part of his city council duties, offers one explanation. "If you were seen going after police, you were seen as being for crime," he says. "It's a whole culture of not wanting to step on their toes. ... Nothing happened to the police officers even after they got a big judgment against them so it appeared to be like Monopoly money."

 

Lawyer Jon Loevy noticed the same unsettling pattern while winning more than a dozen seven-figure misconduct verdicts over the last decade. Jurors, he says, concluded "police did reprehensible things" - including framing people, shooting them without justification and planting evidence - but he knows of no case where those officers were punished. "Not only was nobody disciplined, nobody was asked any questions," he says. "It was just back to work."

 

Few accusations ever reach the punishment stage, according to the Invisible Institute, a nonprofit journalism organization, and the University of Chicago Law School's Mandel Legal Aid Clinic. They found that from March 2011 to September 2015, more than 28,500 citizen complaints of misconduct were filed against Chicago police officers, but less than 2 percent resulted in discipline.

 

Of 375 investigations of police shootings since 2008, the Independent Police Review Authority - which looks into the most serious claims of misconduct - found accusations of wrongdoing against officers valid in just two instances.

 

Both the police and the union representing rank-and-file officers say the numbers are misleading.

 

Dean Angelo, president of the union, says criminals routinely file frivolous complaints to harass and discourage police from pursuing them. "If you're working in the worst neighborhoods ... people are going to complain about you," he says. "It comes part and parcel with the job."

 

City officials also say many complaints are less serious - an improperly issued ticket, for instance - or can't be pursued because the accuser will not sign a sworn affidavit detailing the accusation. The Chicago police, in a statement to The Associated Press, said there were 45 firings and 28 suspensions from 2011 through 2015 in a department of about 12,000. Some cases remain open.

 

During that time, the city doled out tens of millions of dollars on misconduct claims, some dating back many years. The city's top lawyer, Stephen Patton, says his office has reduced costs with new strategies: It has cut the number of outside lawyers by more than 80 percent, taken more cases to trial (the corporation counsel's office won 21 of 28 last year), whittled down a backlog and spread the word it will no longer settle small cases routinely.

 

Since 2011, he says, his office has saved taxpayers at least $90 million by evaluating suits promptly and settling them, if appropriate, rather than racking up large legal fees. The McDonald case was settled without a lawsuit.

 

The cost of misconduct, though, extends far beyond dollars and cents. In some cases, it leaves deep psychological scars on the victimized and their families.

 

Ronald Kitchen, who said he was beaten into confessing to several murders, spent 21 years in prison, 13 of them on death row while seven men were executed. "You keep thinking, 'Am I going to take this walk? Is that going to happen to me?'" he says. "It's not in the back of your mind - it's in the front."

 

Kitchen, who was eventually exonerated, settled for $6.1 million from the city. "The money has been good ... but the pain is still there," he says.

 

Martinez Sutton says the $4.5 million settlement his family received in the death of his 22-year-old sister, Rekia Boyd, "seems almost like hush money."

 

For four years, Sutton has been agitating for the dismissal of Detective Dante Servin, who was off-duty when he shot Boyd in the head. Servin fired several times over his shoulder while sitting in his car after arguing with a group of people. He said he feared for his life as a man pulled an object from his waistband. No gun was found. The man had a cellphone.

 

Servin was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter last year in a controversial ruling: The judge suggested the prosecutor should have charged him with murder. Both the Independent Police Review Authority and the former superintendent have recommended his firing. The decision is up to the Chicago Police Board.

 

"It's a slap in the face to me," Sutton says. "You can give me money but you still can't get rid of this officer? It's not hate against the police department. It's hold accountable whoever commits the crimes. I thought that's the world we live in. You've basically got to prove why your loved one was innocent and that's what I've been doing. "

 

The great majority of misconduct cases are resolved for far smaller amounts, but even seemingly minor incidents can mushroom into costly face-offs.

 

Torreya Hamilton represented a biracial 14-year-old who'd recently moved into a predominantly white neighborhood. A group of officers who lived nearby harassed him, she says, handcuffing him without reason, conducting surveillance on him and his house. One officer, she adds, also posted messages on his Facebook page falsely calling the teen a drug dealer and criminal.

 

Hamilton sued, claiming illegal detention, and proposed settling for $75,000, including legal fees.

By the time the case was over, several lawyers were involved on the teen's behalf. The settlement was almost $530,000, most going to the lawyers. The law department says it settled at the 11th hour when it discovered the officer with the Facebook postings wasn't a credible witness.

 

These kinds of cases, Hamilton says, breed mistrust of police, especially among minorities.

 

"When a police officer has treated you unfairly, the obvious reaction is to not trust the government anymore and not want to call the police when you need the police," she adds.

 

Chicago isn't the only city with these problems. New York, Albuquerque and Baltimore have each doled out millions of dollars in recent years in cases that have sparked street protests and demands for reform.

 

In Chicago, though, the lack of police accountability, a code of silence and racial tensions tend to be more entrenched than in other cities, says Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor and expert on police misconduct. "It's not that Chicago is overrun by bad or abusive police officers," he says, "... but here, a small percentage of officers has been allowed to abuse some of the most vulnerable Chicago residents with near impunity."

 

More than 80 percent of officers have fewer than four complaints for the bulk of their careers, he says, while a small number have accumulated more than 50 in five years and haven't been disciplined.

 

Futterman faults the Chicago police for not addressing patterns of abuse, noting that with some officers, "there was not just a trail of bread crumbs, but a trail of steak that if anyone would have bothered to look, it would have raised serious eyebrows."

 

He points to Officer Jason Van Dyke, charged in the McDonald shooting, who'd been the subject of 20 civilian complaints, including allegations of excessive force, records show. One person who claimed he was injured when Van Dyke and a partner arrested him received $350,000 in civil damages.

 

In another high-profile case, Officer Gildardo Sierra, responding to a 2011 domestic disturbance call, was captured on video fatally shooting Flint Farmer while he lay in a parkway. It was Sierra's third shooting in six months - two were fatal. The prosecutor declined to charge Sierra, saying the officer mistook a cellphone for a gun.

 

Sierra also is one of two officers involved in the civil case of a fatal traffic stop shooting that will be retried because a judge ruled the city lawyer withheld critical evidence. The lawyer resigned. Sierra quit the force in 2015 while he was under investigation.

 

The mayor, who has been the target of blistering criticism for his handling of the McDonald case, recently formed a police task force that will create an early warning system to intervene with problem officers. The police also said in a statement that Interim Superintendent John Escalante is working with others "to review discipline histories, patterns of misconduct, settlements and other information to prioritize investigations and take action where necessary."

 

No pattern of wrongdoing has been more damaging than the one involving former commander Jon Burge and his "midnight crew" of rogue detectives. Scores of black men, many with criminal histories, alleged the officers beat and nearly suffocated them, played mock Russian roulette and subjected them to electric shocks to secure confessions.

 

The routine nature of these abuses over two decades was unparalleled, says G. Flint Taylor, a lawyer who has spent nearly 30 years fighting Burge and his associates. "You can look long and hard around the country and you'd find few cases where they (police) used electric shock from a box or where they put plastic bags over people's heads in a systematic way," he says.

 

Burge cases - including settlements and outside lawyers - have cost the city more than $92 million (about $109 million, if county and state expenses are included), according to Taylor, who keeps his own tally. Yet only Burge himself was ever charged, decades later - for perjury in a federal lawsuit when he denied torture had occurred. He was sentenced to 4½ years in prison.

 

A special prosecution team concluded in 2006 that scores of Burge accusers had, in fact, been brutalized, but cases were too old or too weak to pursue. That "sends the message that, for decades, black lives did not matter to high-level Chicago," Taylor says. Emanuel, who was not mayor at the time, has publicly apologized, calling the scandal "a stain on the city's reputation."

 

Chicago is still paying. Last year, the city council approved an unprecedented $5.5 million reparations package that provides up to $100,000 for each of 57 Burge victims, funds counseling and requires the sordid chapter in city history be taught to 8th and 10th grade public school students.

 

Some critics say these steps, the mayor's vows of reform, the federal probe and the ongoing search for a new superintendent give them hope this could be a pivotal moment. "There's been a lack of political will and courage to address these fundamental issues up until this point," Futterman says. "That may be changing."

 

But Eric Caine, the victim in one of the Burge cases, is skeptical. Five years after his release, he has a house and a restaurant, but he struggles.

 

"That 25 years was real hell to me," he says. "My sense of dignity, my sense of self-worth was destroyed - all shattered, all gone. ... Every second, every minute of the day, I think about my mortality, constantly, constantly. I've had trouble with the law and my personal life. I don't really seem to be able to connect with people."

 

He points to the year it took the city to release the McDonald video as evidence there isn't a new attitude. "The system is designed to protect itself," he says. "They continue to do the same thing over and over, instead of doing the right thing."

 

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Clinton Defeats Sanders in Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina

 

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Hillary Clinton rolled up primary victories in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina on Tuesday, dealing a severe blow to Bernie Sanders' bid to slow her march toward the Democratic presidential nomination.

 

Hillary Clinton

 

"We are moving closer to securing the Democratic Party nomination and winning this election in November," Clinton told cheering supporters in Florida, calling it "another Super Tuesday for our campaign."

 

Clinton also was competing against Sanders in two other Midwestern states, Missouri and Illinois. But her primary night trifecta strengthened her already formidable pledged delegate lead over Sanders and the former secretary of state said she expected to have a more than 300-delegate edge by the end of the day.

 

Sanders, addressing supporters in Phoenix, said his campaign had "come a long way" but he looked past the outcomes. "The reason we have defied all expectations is that we are doing something very radical in American politics - we are telling the truth," he said.

 

Florida was the biggest delegate prize and Clinton's victories put her in a position to end the day with about two-thirds of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

 

With the three wins, Clinton will pick up at least 248 delegates while Sanders will gain 102. Many delegates remain to be allocated pending more complete vote totals.

 

Looking ahead to the fall, Clinton offered pointed words for businessman Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner. "Our commander-in-chief has to be able to defend our country, not embarrass it." She said for the nation "to be great, we can't be small. We can't lose what made America great in the first place."

 

Democratic voters in all five states viewed Clinton as the candidate with the better chance to beat Trump if he is the Republican nominee, according to early exit polls. The voters were more likely to describe Sanders as honest but more likely to describe Clinton's policies as realistic.

 

"She has done it. She has been there. She is the person that should replace Barack Obama," said Eduardo De Jesus, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who voted for Clinton.

 

Clinton urged Democrats in recent days to unite behind her candidacy so it could focus on Trump, the Republican front-runner. In telling campaign optics, Clinton staged Tuesday's primary night rally in West Palm Beach, a few miles from Mar-a-Lago, where Trump was holding a news conference at his Palm Beach estate.

 

Sanders aimed for victory in Missouri and was within striking distance in Illinois, a state where he hoped his trade-focused message would resonate. It helped him pull off an upset in Michigan last week, prompting him to continue to question Clinton's past support for trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.

 

Entering Tuesday, Clinton had 768 pledged delegates compared to 554 for Sanders, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. Overall, Clinton held 1,235 of total delegates, more than half the amount needed to clinch the nomination when the count includes superdelegates, who are elected officials and party leaders free to support the candidate of their choice. Sanders has 580 delegates when the count includes superdelegates.

 

Sanders' team said the calendar would be more favorable in the weeks ahead. After Tuesday's contests, the campaign shifts westward, with contests in Arizona, Idaho and Utah on March 22 and Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state on March 26.

 

--

Thomas reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Hope Yen in Washington, Nicholas Riccardi in Phoenix and Alex Sanz in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., contributed to this report.

 

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Rubio Ends White House Run After Florida Loss

MIAMI (AP) -- Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio dropped out of the race for president on Tuesday, ending his White House bid after a humbling loss in his home state to Donald Trump.

 

Rubio

 

"It is not God's plan that I be president in 2016 or maybe ever," Rubio told a crowd of supporters in Miami.

 

While he didn't name winner Trump, Rubio warned against embracing his brand of divisive politics: "I ask the American people, do not give into the fear, do not give into the frustration," Rubio said.

 

Rubio's decision was prompted by losses in all but three of the presidential nomination contests, but Florida's winner-take-all primary proved the most devastating. Only six years earlier, he was a tea party favorite who crushed the GOP's "establishment" candidate to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.

 

But the political tables turned on the Florida senator as a 2016 presidential candidate who was lambasted as mainstream in a year when voters cried out for an outsider.

 

In the final week, he dedicated time and resources almost exclusively to the Sunshine State, urging voters to stop Trump from "hijacking" the Republican Party. He went so far as to tell his supporters in Ohio to vote for Buckeye State governor John Kasich since his chances were better to win there.

 

Despite his intense rivalry with Trump, Rubio only indirectly criticized him during much of the campaign. He pivoted to an all-out assault on the businessman's character and ethics after a dismal March 1 Super Tuesday performance when he clinched only one of the 11 contests.

 

In recent weeks, the attacks deviated from policy to personal. At one point, Rubio equated Trump's small hands with his manhood. Trump began regularly referring to the senator as "little Marco." But the strategy backfired with voters and donors and Rubio later said he regretted the attacks.

 

In the Iowa caucuses, he came in a better-than-expected third place, nearly beating Trump for second. He then banked on a big showing in New Hampshire but a stunningly poor debate performance - in which he frequently repeated talking points and was called a "scripted" politician by rival Chris Christie - led to a dismal fifth place.

 

"Our disappointment tonight is not on you. It's on me," he told supporters that night.

 

Rubio rebounded in South Carolina, where he came in second place behind Trump and had edged Ted Cruz, Nevada, where Rubio spent part of his childhood, delivered another second place finish.

 

But questions arose about which state Rubio could realistically win. The campaign dismissed the chatter, saying they were running a national campaign but the doubts grew deafening on March 1, Super Tuesday, when Rubio collected just one won of 11 contests.

 

The losses only mounted for Rubio, who only managed to win Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. And the final blow came at home.

 

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CLINTON DEFEATS SANDERS IN FLORIDA IN TUESDAY'S PRIMARY

 

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Hillary Clinton soundly defeated Bernie Sanders in Tuesday's Florida primary and pushed for wins in North Carolina and three Midwest primaries, aiming to lay the groundwork for a potential fall showdown against Republican Donald Trump.

 

Clinton

 

Clinton hoped to pad her Florida victory with a win in Ohio to show strength in the nation's two leading general election battlegrounds. The Democrats were also competing in Missouri, North Carolina and Illinois in primaries that could help Clinton add to her lead of more than 200 pledged delegates.

 

Florida was Tuesday's biggest delegate prize, and Clinton's victory put Sanders at risk of losing more ground among delegates even if he narrowly wins the Midwest states. Clinton was in a position to end the day with about two-thirds of the delegates needed to win the nomination.

 

"The numbers are adding up in my favor," Clinton told reporters in Raleigh, North Carolina, before flying to Florida on Tuesday. With 214 delegates at stake in Florida, Clinton was assured of winning at least 118 while Sanders will pick up at least 45.

 

Democratic voters in all five states viewed Clinton as the candidate with the better chance to beat Trump if he is the Republican nominee, according to early exit polls. The voters were more likely to describe Sanders as honest but more likely to describe Clinton's policies as realistic.

 

"She has done it. She has been there. She is the person that should replace Barack Obama," said Eduardo De Jesus, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who voted for Clinton.

 

Clinton urged Democrats in recent days to unite behind her candidacy so it could focus on Trump, the Republican front-runner. In telling campaign optics, Clinton staged Tuesday's primary night rally in West Palm Beach, a few miles from Mar-a-Lago, where Trump was holding a news conference at his Palm Beach estate.

 

Sanders aimed for victory in Missouri and was within striking distance in Illinois and Ohio, two states where he hoped his trade-focused message would resonate. It helped him pull off an upset in Michigan last week, prompting him to continue to question Clinton's past support for trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.

 

"Secretary Clinton has supported virtually every one of these disastrous trade agreements," Sanders said Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina. "When decision time came, as to whether you were on the side of working people, or corporate America, she made the wrong decision."

 

Entering Tuesday, Clinton had 768 pledged delegates compared to 554 for Sanders, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. Overall, Clinton holds 1,235 of total delegates, more than half the amount needed to clinch the nomination when the count includes superdelegates, who are elected officials and party leaders free to support the candidate of their choice. Sanders has 580 delegates when the count includes superdelegates.

 

Nearly 700 delegates were at stake in Tuesday's primaries and the delegates will be awarded proportionally, making it difficult for Sanders to make a large dent in Clinton's lead.

 

Sanders' team says the calendar will be more favorable to the senator in the weeks ahead. After Tuesday's contests, the campaign shifts westward, with contests in Arizona, Idaho and Utah on March 22 and Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state on March 26.

 

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Thomas reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Hope Yen in Washington, Meg Kinnard in Charlotte, N.C., and Alex Sanz in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., contributed to this report.

 

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NTSB Says Feed Truck Shifted Track Before Amtrak Accident

 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- A truck used to deliver feed to a business where cattle are fattened hit a train track and shifted it at least a foot before an Amtrak train derailed in southwest Kansas and injured at least 32 people, and investigator said Tuesday.

 

Train

 

National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener did not say if the feed truck was the cause of the Amtrak Southwest Chief's accident the day earlier.

But he said the impact of the truck from the Cimarron Crossing Feeders shifted the train tracks 12 to 14 inches. The train was traveling 60 mph when the engineer applied emergency brake, stopping 18 seconds later.

 

Amtrak's Southwest Chief was carrying more than 140 people when it derailed early Monday, moments after an engineer noticed a significant bend in a rail and applied the emergency brakes, authorities said. At least 32 people were hurt, two of them critically.

 

Investigators reviewed data from cameras and recorders on the train as well as the condition of the rails and crew performance.

 

Weener had said on Monday that the engineer was vigilant and noticed the variation on the track, causing him to brake. The track had been inspected last week, he said.

 

The train, which had about 130 passengers and 14 crew members, was making a 43-hour journey from Los Angeles to Chicago when it derailed shortly after midnight along a straight stretch of tracks in flat farmland near Cimarron, a small community about 160 miles west of Wichita. Eight cars derailed, and four of them ended up on their sides.

 

Four of them remained hospitalized Monday night, including two people who were airlifted to Amarillo, Texas. The rest had been released.

 

The tracks run along Highway 50, which has no barrier that would prevent a vehicle from leaving the roadway and driving near or onto the tracks. The road and tracks are separated by a shallow depression.

 

Daniel Aiken, of Lenexa, Kansas, said he heard screaming as he climbed out of an overturned car. He stopped to smell a fluid that was flowing through the car, fearful that it was fuel, but was reassured when he realized it was water.

 

"Once people realized the train wasn't going to blow up, they calmed down," he said.

Visibility at the accident site was relatively clear at the time of the derailment.

 

The future of the Southwest Chief service - the only Amtrak route through Kansas, with stops at six cities - had been uncertain in recent years. Amtrak had warned it might stop or reroute the line because of disputes over who would pay to install safety technology, but officials reached a deal last year.

Tens of millions of dollars were invested in improving parts of the rail line in Colorado and Kansas.

 

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Associated Press writers Jim Suhr and Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Mo., also contributed to this report.

 

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Wounded Warrior Fires Execs Over Spending Accusations

 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The board of Wounded Warrior Project, one of the nation's largest veteran support groups, has fired two top officials amid news reports accusing the group of wasteful spending.

 

Wounded Warrior

 

According to a statement released on behalf of Wounded Warrior Project, chief executive officer Steve Nardizzi and chief operating officer Al Giordano are no longer with the organization. CBS News reports the two were fired after a Thursday afternoon meeting in New York.

 

According to CBS, Wounded Warrior Project spends 40 to 50 percent of its money on overhead - including extravagant parties - while other veterans charities have overhead costs of 10 to 15 percent. The CBS report also talked to former employees who accused the organization of making money off their injuries.

 

One former employee told CBS that how Wounded Warrior Project spends money is equivalent to "what the military calls fraud, waste and abuse."

 

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Database of Problem Police Officers May Get Test in Ferguson

 

DALLAS (AP) -- In the wake of Michael Brown's death, the federal government wants to require the Ferguson Police Department to check all new hires against a database of officers who have been stripped of their law enforcement licenses for misconduct.

 

Ferguson

 

The mandate to consult the National Decertification Index received little notice in the government's proposed agreement to reform the police and court systems in the St. Louis suburb. But the measure's inclusion suggests to some observers that federal authorities could finally be seeking to put the index into wider use after years of resisting the idea.

 

The database contains the names of about 20,000 former officers who were pushed out of law enforcement. The index has been used inconsistently, and many officers who are stripped of their badges in one jurisdiction are free to move to another.

 

Criminal justice advocates have long called for the creation of a clearinghouse of information on bad cops similar to the National Practitioner Data Bank, which tracks malpractice lawsuits and complaints against doctors. Those calls have been rejected by Congress and opposed by some law-enforcement groups, particularly police unions worried about creating a blacklist.

 

When Congress was debating a national police registry in 1996, one union official compared the idea to the "witch hunts of Salem." The bill failed.

 

"Law enforcement was late getting into the registry business," said Raymond Franklin, a retired director of Maryland's police standards agency and one of the creators of the index. "Every profession has it now. And quite frankly, nobody ever talks about the National Practitioner Data Bank for doctors being a blacklist. You would expect that there would be a source of information about how doctors could have problems."

 

If adopted, the requirement for Ferguson would be unusual. When police departments in Cleveland or Albuquerque, New Mexico, negotiated major agreements following shootings by officers, the Justice Department did not require them to begin using the index.

 

The Ferguson deal was put on hold last month after city officials rejected the cost of implementing the 127-page plan, and the Justice Department sued to enforce it. On Tuesday, the city council seemed to change course again, setting a March 15 vote to reconsider the deal.

 

The proposed settlement followed the government's highly critical assessment of Ferguson's law enforcement and legal systems after a white officer shot and killed Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black resident, in August 2014. The Justice Department later cleared Darren Wilson, concluding that evidence backed his claim that he shot Brown in self-defense. His death helped spawn the national "Black Lives Matter" movement.

 

A yearlong Associated Press investigation last year found that the index was missing thousands of names because the voluntary, privately run effort does not include every state, and vast variations exist in how local and state officials track and handle police misconduct.

 

Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have a process for removing the licenses of police officers for misconduct, a process commonly known as decertification. The index aims to collect those records, but participation is limited to 39 states, including Missouri.

 

Even states that are relatively aggressive in identifying bad officers, such as Georgia, do not participate because their record-keeping differs too much from the national index, and the effort to convert the information would be time-consuming and costly, Georgia officials said.

 

What states do report to the index is also limited. Participating agencies enter only the names of decertified officers, their employers, dates of decertification and basic reasons for the punitive action. There is no detailed information on why an officer was pushed out, nor is the index open to the public.

 

Federal money helped launch the index in 2000 after state police standards officials came together through their national group to create a bare-bones system for sharing decertification records. But the Justice Department does not fund it anymore.

 

The Justice Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the AP. The former head of its Office of Justice Programs said federal funding was meant to launch the index, not fund it long term.

 

"We thought it made sense at least from experimenting with it to see if it would catch on," said the official, Jim Burch, who now works for the Police Foundation.

 

Mike Becar, the executive director of the national police standards group, said his organization funds server space for the index at a minimal cost, but the index cannot expand without outside funding.

 

In a report last year, the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing called on the Justice Department to partner with the national police standards group to expand the index to all states and territories. Including the index in the Ferguson agreement could be a sign that federal officials are acting on that plan.

 

"This is another venue or opportunity for pushing that," said Matthew Hickman, a Seattle University researcher who has long studied police decertification. It will send a message to Missouri and other states that the Justice Department "is paying attention to this issue and thinks that participation in the NDI is a good thing."

 

But getting Congress to pass a law making the index mandatory, Hickman added, would be a "serious uphill battle."

 

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Teen Pleads No Contest to Killing Girl on Day of Junior Prom

 

MILFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A teenager accused of stabbing a classmate to death at their high school for rejecting his invitation to the junior prom pleaded no contest to murder Monday, and prosecutors said they will seek a 25-year prison sentence.

 

Teen Satbbing

 

Christopher Plaskon, 18, accepted a plea bargain during a brief appearance in Milford Superior Court. Sentencing is set for June 6.

 

Plaskon was charged with killing 16-year-old Maren Sanchez at Jonathan Law High School in Milford on April 25, 2014, after his family and friends said he became upset that Sanchez turned down his prom invitation.

 

Plaskon was held at a psychiatric hospital after the stabbing. His attorneys said he showed signs of psychosis and they were considering an insanity defense.

 

The attack happened in a first-floor hallway at about 7:15 a.m. on April 25, 2014, the day of the junior prom. Students described an emotional scene where people were crying as police and paramedics swarmed the school.

 

A witness tried to pull Plaskon off Sanchez during the attack, and another saw Plaskon discard a bloody knife, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Plaskon was taken to the principal's office in bloody clothing and told police, "I did it. Just arrest me," according to the affidavit.

 

Staff members and paramedics performed life-saving measures on Sanchez, but she was pronounced dead at a hospital shortly afterward. The medical examiner's office said she was stabbed in the torso and neck.

 

Sanchez, a member of the National Honor Society who was active in drama and other school activities, had been focused on prom in the days before she was killed. She had posted on Facebook a photograph of herself wearing a blue prom dress and was looking forward to attending with a new boyfriend.

 

At school on the day before the stabbing, Sanchez and a friend talked excitedly about their plans for the upcoming dance.

 

A friend of Plaskon's told police that Plaskon thought about hurting Sanchez because he wanted to be more than friends with her. The friend said Plaskon said he wouldn't mind if Sanchez "was dead or hit by a bus."

 

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Michigan Restricted Flint From Switching Water in Loan Deal

 

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- The state of Michigan restricted Flint from switching water sources last April unless it got approval from Gov. Rick Snyder's administration under the terms of a $7 million loan needed to help transition the city from state management, according to a document released Wednesday.

 

Michigan

 

By the time the loan agreement was in place, cries about Flint's water quality were growing louder, though it had not yet been discovered that the improperly treated Flint River water was causing lead to leach from aging pipes and put children at risk.

Flint's state-appointed emergency manager said at the time that switching back to the water source would cost the city more than $1 million a month and that "water from Detroit is no safer than Flint water."

 

Snyder eventually agreed roughly six months later to help Flint reconnect to a Detroit-area system after doctors reported high levels of lead in kids.

 

But critics in the Michigan Democratic Party said that the loan document, obtained by the party through a public records request, shows that his administration tied Flint's hands and prevented earlier action. Shortly after, a top Democrat became the first state lawmaker to call for Snyder to resign.

 

"The Snyder administration effectively put a financial gun to the heads of Flint's families by using the emergency manager law to lock the city into taking water from a poisoned source," party chairman Brandon Dillon said.

 

House Minority Leader Tim Greimel later added: "Given the actions of negligence and indifference by the governor, and a culture he has created that lacks transparency and accountability, the very serious call for resignation is warranted."

 

Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said the governor is "fully committed to remaining in office and fixing the problems with the water in Flint and the problems within state government that caused this crisis in the first place." He also criticized Greimel's "politically charged press conference" instead of attending a legislative briefing on Flint with the governor's office.

Snyder previously refused to step down after calls to do so from protesters, liberal groups and presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

 

The loan deal said Flint could not enter an agreement with its former water supplier without approval from the state treasurer and also prohibited the city from reducing water and sewer rates unless authorized by the state.

 

In March 2015, the Flint City Council, which was powerless at the time, voted to "do all things necessary" to stop using the Flint River and reconnect to Lake Huron water. But state-appointed emergency manager Jerry Ambrose, who sought the loan from the state, said no, calling it "incomprehensible."

 

Provisions in such a loan agreement are "included to ensure that a local unit of government remains on solid financial footing and does not slip back into financial emergency," said state Treasurer Nick Khouri, who took the job just days before signing the loan deal. The Democratic Party also called for his resignation or firing Wednesday.

 

"At no time did the loan agreement with Flint prohibit the city from returning to the Detroit Water System. It required the City only to notify, and receive State approval, before making such a decision," he said in a statement.

 

A month before the loan, a state official notified Snyder's aides of a surge in Legionnaires' disease potentially linked to Flint's water - long before the governor, who said he was not made aware of the deadly outbreak, reported the increase to the public. The official also briefly mentioned Legionnaires in a January 2015 email to one of Snyder's spokespeople, according to recently released emails.

 

Those emails, released by Snyder's office last month, showed he was made aware of Flint's water troubles, including E. coli detections, outraged residents' complaints about the color and smell, high levels of a disinfectant byproduct and a General Motors plant's decision to no longer use the water because it was rusting engine parts.

 

The governor has said he did not clearly know the full extent of the water's danger until around Oct. 1, when state health officials confirmed elevated blood-lead levels in children.

 

Snyder said last week, "we didn't connect all the dots that I wish we would have," but added that when his aides checked with environmental and health experts in state agencies about concerns, they continually reaffirmed "there was no problem." Some state environmental regulators have since lost their jobs.

 

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Virginia Man Pleads Guilty to Killing 2 College Students

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) -- A convicted rapist pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing two Virginia college students and avoided the death penalty by taking a deal that calls for him to spend the rest of his life in prison.

 

Virgina

 

Jesse LeRoy Matthew Jr., 34, was sentenced to four consecutive life terms when he pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of abduction with the intent to defile in the deaths of Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington, two remarkably similar murder cases that amplified concerns about campus safety.

 

Matthew looked directly at family members during his plea hearing but showed no emotion. He said through his attorney that "he is very sorry and he loves his family very much."

 

Graham's mother, Susan Graham, said her daughter accomplished great things, but in a way people never would've imagined - she enabled law enforcement to apprehend a "serial rapist" who had been "hiding in plain sight in Charlottesville for years."

 

"She is a heroine," Graham's mother said.

 

After Graham's death, Matthew was charged with a felony that empowered police to swab his cheek for a DNA sample. Authorities have said that sample connected Matthew to a 2005 sexual assault in northern Virginia and the 2009 disappearance of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington.

 

He was convicted in the rape case and sentenced to three life terms.

 

According to authorities, Graham and Harrington were young women in vulnerable straits when they vanished in Charlottesville five years apart.

 

Harrington, 20, disappeared in 2009 after she stepped out of a University of Virginia arena during a Metallica concert and was unable to get back in.

 

Graham, an 18-year-old University of Virginia student, vanished after having dinner and attending parties off campus in 2014. She was captured on surveillance video walking unsteadily, and sometimes running, past a service station and a restaurant. She texted a friend that she was lost.

 

Additional video showed Graham crossing Charlottesville's downtown pedestrian mall, then leaving a restaurant with Matthew, his arm wrapped around her.

 

Graham's disappearance, which came at a time of rising national concern about sexual assaults and other crimes on college campuses, prompted a massive search. Her body was found five weeks later on abandoned property in Albemarle County, about 12 miles from the Charlottesville campus and 6 miles from a hayfield where Harrington's remains had been found in January 2010.

 

Graham's mother said Matthew dumped her daughter's body "like a bag of trash" to be picked over by buzzards.

 

Prosecutor Robert Tracci said the plea deal serves the interest of justice in several ways, including avoiding the re-victimization of the Harrington and Graham families that would result from a long and highly publicized trial.

 

After police named Matthew a person of interest in Graham's disappearance, he fled and was later apprehended on a beach in southeast Texas. He was charged and his cheek was swabbed for a DNA sample. That sample connected Matthew to a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax, a Virginia suburb of Washington, according to authorities.

 

The DNA evidence in the Fairfax sexual assault, in turn, linked Matthew to the Harrington case, authorities have said.

 

The charge against Matthew in the Graham case was later upgraded to capital murder, giving prosecutors the option to seek the death penalty.

 

Matthew, who was a taxi driver before going to work at the University of Virginia hospital, also had been accused of raping students in 2002 and 2003 at Liberty University and Christopher Newport University, where he had played football. But those cases were dropped when the women declined to press charges.

 

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