Nation briefly Oct. 18
Israel, Hamas complete final preparations for complex prisoner exchange
JERUSALEM (AP) – The elaborate machinery of a prisoner swap deal between two bitter enemies swung into motion Monday, as hundreds of Palestinians and one Israeli soldier prepared to return home in one of the most dramatic recent developments in the otherwise deadlocked Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The Israel-Hamas deal, to take place Tuesday morning, is going ahead despite criticism and court appeals in Israel against the release of 1,027 Palestinians for a single captured Armored Corps sergeant, Gilad Schalit, held by militants in Gaza since 2006.
The exchange, negotiated through mediators because Israel and Hamas will not talk directly to each other, involves a delicate series of staged releases, each one triggering the next.
When it is over, Schalit – 19 years old at the time of his capture, and 25 now – will be free, ending what for Israel has been a prolonged and painful saga. Israel was forced to acknowledge that it had no way of rescuing Schalit in a military operation, though the soldier was held no more than a few miles from its border.
Instead, Israel agreed to a lopsided prisoner exchange that Hamas officials have openly said will encourage them to capture more soldiers, and which will free Palestinians convicted of some of the deadliest attacks against Israeli civilians in recent memory.
Libyan forces seize most of Bani Walid
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) – Libyan revolutionary forces have captured almost all of Bani Walid, one of Moammar Gadhafi’s last remaining strongholds, but still face pockets of resistance as they try to end a weeks-long standoff, officials said Monday.
Fierce resistance in Bani Walid and Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte has prevented Libya’s new leaders from declaring full victory and setting a timeline for elections. It has been more than two months since the former rebels gained control of the rest of the oil-rich North African nation.
In a step toward normalcy, the transitional leadership council confirmed it has signed an agreement with NATO that partially lifts the no-fly zone imposed in March over the country, allowing resumption of some flights without seeking NATO approval. The embargo was imposed as part of the U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized airstrikes to protect civilians from Gadhafi’s regime.
Anwar Elfeitori, the minister of transportation and communications, said the agreement signed Thursday in Malta will make it easier to transport wounded fighters from the front lines for treatment.
“The partial lifting of the air embargo will help with the transportation of the casualties, which is the No. 1 priority at this time, as well as facilitate the movement of people between Libya and the rest of the world,” Elfeitori told The Associated Press in an interview.
Discovery of 4 disabled people in Philly basement exposes alleged benefit-theft scheme
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The landlord of the apartment building at first thought a circuit breaker had tripped when he went to the basement Saturday and found all the lights were out. Then he realized all six bulbs had been removed, and he heard dogs barking inside a boiler room, its door chained shut.
He removed the chain, stepped into the dank, foul-smelling room and lifted a pile of blankets. Several sets of human eyes stared back at him.
Turgut Gozleveli had stumbled upon four mentally disabled adults, all weak and malnourished, and one chained to the boiler.
He may have also stumbled upon a vast scheme – stretching from Philadelphia to Norfolk Va., and West Palm Beach, Fla. – to steal the Social Security disability checks of defenseless and vulnerable people, authorities said.
Philadelphia police on Saturday arrested three adults staying in an apartment upstairs, including the alleged ringleader, Linda Ann Weston, 51, who had been convicted of murder in a 1981 starvation death.
Mom changes story, says she was drunk when Kansas City baby disappeared
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – The mother of a missing Kansas City baby said Monday that she was drunk when her daughter disappeared, may have blacked out and actually last saw the child hours before the time she originally told police she checked on her.
The revelations came hours before a New York attorney best known for defending Joran Van der Sloot, the Dutch man suspected in the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba, said he had been hired to represent parents Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin.
The couple reported their 10-month-old daughter missing Oct. 4 after Irwin returned from working a night shift and found the front door unlocked, the house lights blazing, a window tampered with and the baby gone. Bradley and their two sons were asleep elsewhere in the home.
Bradley told police she last saw her daughter, Lisa Irwin, when she checked on her at 10:30 p.m. But Monday, she told NBC’s “Today” show she actually last saw Lisa when she put her to bed at 6:40 p.m. She gave no explanation for the modified times.
Bradley told Fox News that she got drunk after she put her children to bed that night and may have blacked out. Asked how much she drank that night and whether it was more than five glasses of wine, she responded, “probably.” She said she didn’t have more than 10 glasses. Bradley said she frequently drinks heavily at home but only after her children are safely in bed. She also said she takes anxiety medication and had taken a dose that day.