Nation and World briefly July 4
Casey Anthony’s attorney: Caylee’s death was an accident that ‘snowballed out of control’
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Casey Anthony’s lead defense attorney has finished his closing argument insisting that the death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee was an “accident snowballed out of control.”
Jose Baez spent most of his four-hour argument Sunday concentrating on holes in the prosecution’s forensic evidence, saying it was based on a “fantasy.”
The judge overseeing the case indicated that the jury will begin deliberating on Monday.
Prosecutors contend Caylee was suffocated with duct tape by her mother, who then crafted elaborate lies to mislead investigators and her parents.
Baez says the toddler accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool and that her father made the death look like a murder, which he denies.
Los Alamos evacuation order lifted, but tribes fear destruction of sacred sites
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) – A smattering of summer rain gave a boost to firefighters battling a huge forest fire near Los Alamos, giving authorities enough confidence to allow about 12,000 people to return home for the first time in nearly a week.
Residents rolled into town Sunday morning, honking their horns and waving to firefighters as the word got out that the roadblocks were lifted and the narrow two lane highway cut into the side of a mesa leading to Los Alamos was open. They had fled en masse on Monday as the fast-moving fire approached the city and its nuclear laboratory.
“Thank, you! Thank, You! Thank, you!,” yelled Amy Riehl, an assistant manager at the Smith’s grocery store as she arrived in Los Alamos to help keep the store open for returning residents.
“It’s scary, but all of the resources here this time, they were ready. They did a magnificent job,” said Michael Shields, eyes tearing up as he returned home to his apartment in the heart of the town.
The town was last evacuated because of the 2000 Cerro Grande fire. That time, residents returned to a town that had lost 200 homes, several businesses and had to cope with damaged utilities and other county enterprises. This time around, residents were returning to a town that is completely intact, although the fire destroyed 63 homes west of town.
Pakistani shelling along Afghan border sends rumblings along key war front
SIRKANAY, Afghanistan (AP) – On a mountain trail toward the border with Pakistan, the explosions became louder, more constant and finally visible as puffs of smoke on distant peaks and rising from valleys.
Families escaping the fusillade led donkeys strapped with mattresses and bags of clothes the other way, down the steep footpaths. They passed crippled trees, cratered houses, empty villages. Some of the villagers had shrapnel scars and described seeing relatives blown apart during a five-week artillery barrage from Pakistan.
“My grandson was nine years old,” said Juma Gul, a 60-year-old village elder in the Sirkanay district in eastern Afghanistan. “He and three other children were herding our goats when a rocket came. All four were killed. We could not find most of their bodies.”
A loud crack sounded and rolled over the peaks. Gul swept his hand toward the mountain range rising toward Pakistan. “Still the rockets are landing here,” he said.
The shelling in Kunar province is taking place along one of the most strategically important fronts of the war – a haven for hardcore insurgent groups fighting in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Military hopes new type commander will avert chaos and failures of Hurricane Katrina response
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AP) – The Defense Department is grooming a new type of commander to coordinate the military response to domestic disasters, hoping to save lives by avoiding some of the chaos that plagued the Hurricane Katrina rescue effort.
The officers, called dual-status commanders, would be able to lead both active-duty and National Guard troops – a power that requires special training and authority because of legal restrictions on the use of the armed forces on U.S. soil.
No one commander had that authority in the aftermath of Katrina, and military and civilian experts say the lack of coordination contributed to the nightmarish delays, duplications and gaps in the huge rescue effort.
“It was just like a solid wall was between the two entities,” said Georgia National Guard Col. Michael Scholes, who was part of the Katrina response.
Top Defense Department officials believe dual-status commanders are the key to reducing at least some of those failures.
With turn in Strauss-Kahn case, some experts say DA will have to drop it, others see a chance
NEW YORK (AP) – At first, prosecutors said their sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn was growing more formidable by the day. Six weeks later, they said his accuser’s history of lying raised major red flags, but they weren’t dropping the case, at least for now.
With the former International Monetary Fund leader freed from house arrest because the case has weakened, prosecutors aren’t saying what their next move may be.
Some legal experts say prosecutors will all but have to abandon the case because of the damage to the accuser’s overall credibility, even if they believe Strauss-Kahn attacked the woman, a housekeeper at a New York City hotel where he was staying. Still, at least one former high-level prosecutor thinks the case isn’t doomed.
For now, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. is saying only that prosecutors will keep investigating “until we have uncovered all relevant facts.”
“Sometimes the road to get to the truth has twists and turns in it, which are not always apparent at the outset,” he said in a statement Sunday. “What is important is not a win or a loss, but rather to ensure the criminal justice system balances the rights of all those who come before it.”
Teams gauge damage from Exxon spill into Montana’s Yellowstone River; most of oil likely lost
LAUREL, Mont. (AP) – Teams of federal and state workers fanned out Sunday along Montana’s famed Yellowstone River to gauge the environmental damage from a ruptured Exxon Mobil pipeline that spewed tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the waterway.
The break near Billings, in south-central Montana, fouled the riverbank and forced municipalities and irrigation districts to close intakes.
An Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Sonya Pennock said an unspecified amount of oil could be seen some 40 miles downriver during a fly-over Sunday, and there were other reports of oil as far as 100 miles away near the town of Hysham.
But an Exxon Mobil Corp. executive said shoreline damage appeared to be limited to the Yellowstone between Laurel and Billings, which includes about 20 miles of river.
Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. President Gary Pruessing said company observers flying over the river had seen “very little soiling” beyond Billings, and that the oil appeared to be evaporating and dissipating into the river as the flooded Yellowstone carries it downstream.
Germany, 9/11, Iraq: After 1972 draft notice, last Army conscript stayed on willingly
FORT BELVOIR, Va. (AP) – A homemade wind chime with the word “Whining” under a red slash is made from metal parts put in his leg after a parachute accident. Every Sunday he trims his crew cut. He didn’t join the Army willingly, but as Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Mellinger prepares to retire, he’s grateful he found his calling.
Mellinger was drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, and the Army believes he’s the last draftee to retire, after 39 years. Most did their two years and left. But Mellinger had found home.
“I think I’m pretty good at it, but I like it. That’s the bottom line. I love being a soldier and I love being around soldiers,” he said.
Mellinger’s motto is simple: No whining – as the wind chime attests.
When the draft notice arrived in the mail in 1972 at his home in Eugene, Ore., tens of thousands of troops had been killed. Anti-war protests were rampant. Draft cards were being burned and returning soldiers were treated as part of the problem. The military wasn’t a popular job.
Prince William, Kate make unscheduled walkabout in Quebec City despite nearby protests
QUEBEC CITY (AP) – Prince William and Kate thrilled hundreds of adoring fans with an unscheduled walkabout Sunday in a city that was the site of the key British victory in the conquest of the French – a historical event not forgotten by French-speaking separatists protesting nearby.
The newlyweds were on the fourth day of a nine-day trip to Canada, part of their first official overseas trip since their April 29 wedding.
The visit hit a nerve among French-speaking separatists. Prince William and Kate had a private lunch at the Citadelle, a fortified residence where the British flag was raised at the end of the pivotal 1759 Battle of Quebec, when British forces defeated the French to seal the conquest of New France.
The royal couple encountered small but vocal protests for the second straight day during their visit to predominantly French-speaking Quebec. The jeers contrasted with the start of their Canadian trip in the largely English-speaking capital, Ottawa, where they were cheered by tens of thousands of people on Friday’s Canada Day holiday.
Quebec separatists are angry that Canada still has ties to the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is still the country’s head of state.
Upstate NY motorcyclist dies after hitting head on pavement during protest against helmet laws
ONONDAGA, N.Y. (AP) – Police say a motorcyclist participating in a protest ride against helmet laws in upstate New York died after he flipped over the bike’s handlebars and hit his head on the pavement.
The accident happened Saturday afternoon in the town of Onondaga, in central New York near Syracuse.
State troopers tell The Post-Standard of Syracuse that 55-year-old Philip A. Contos of Parish, N.Y., was driving a 1983 Harley Davidson with a group of bikers who were protesting helmet laws by not wearing helmets.
Troopers say Contos hit his brakes and the motorcycle fishtailed. The bike spun out of control, and Contos toppled over the handlebars. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Troopers say Contos would have likely survived if he had been wearing a helmet.
Djokovic dominates defending champ Nadal to win 1st Wimbledon final, 3rd Grand Slam title
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) – Until Sunday, Novak Djokovic never managed to win a grass-court tournament of any sort, let alone Wimbledon.
Until Sunday, Djokovic never was able to beat Rafael Nadal in a Grand Slam match, let alone a final.
Until this marvelous – and nearly perfect – year, Djokovic was very good. Now he’s great.
After outrunning, outswinging and, for stretches, dominating defending champion Nadal, winning 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 for his first title at the All England Club and third major championship overall, Djokovic crouched on Center Court, reached down, plucked some blades of grass and shoved them in his mouth.
“I felt like an animal. I wanted to see how it tastes. It tastes good,” Djokovic said later, his eyes wide and his smile contagious. “It came spontaneously, really. I didn’t plan to do it. I didn’t know what to do for my excitement and joy.”