View Mobile Site

Nation news briefs

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED January 30, 2012 8:11 p.m.

DETROIT HIT MAN SAYS KID IS INNOCENT: IONIA, Mich. (AP) — A Detroit hit man in prison for eight murders said he's willing to publicly take responsibility for four more to help clear a young man who claims he's innocent of the slayings and confessed at age 14 only to satisfy police.

Vincent Smothers' testimony would be the most crucial evidence yet to try to persuade a judge to throw out Davontae Sanford's guilty plea and free him from a nearly 40-year prison sentence. In an interview with The Associated Press, Smothers declared: "He's not guilty. He didn't do it."

Smothers said he never used a 14-year-old accomplice — blind in one eye and learning disabled — to carry out his paid hits, mostly victims tied to Detroit's drug trade. Ironically, there's no dispute that Smothers confessed to the so-called Runyon Street slayings when he was captured in 2008, but prosecutors have never charged him and never explained why.

"I understand what prison life is like; it's miserable. To be here and be innocent — I don't know what it's like," Smothers said of Sanford, who is now 19. "He's a kid, and I hate for him to do the kind of time they're giving him."

EMBOLDENED GOP WANTS TO ABOLISH STATE INCOME TAXES: OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A year after Republicans swept into office across the country, many have trained their sights on what has long been a fiscal conservative's dream: the steep reduction or even outright elimination of state income taxes.

The idea has circulated among academics and think-tank researchers for years. But it's moving quietly into mainstream political discourse, despite the fact that such sweeping changes would almost certainly mean a total rewiring of tax systems at a time when most states are still struggling in the aftermath of the recession.

"I think there's going to be more action that way," especially as Republican governors release their budget plans, said Kim Rueben, an expert on state taxation at the Brookings Urban Tax Policy Center.

Last year, GOP lawmakers in many states quickly went to work on a new conservative agenda: restricting abortion, cracking down on illegal immigration, expanding gun rights and taking aim at public-employee unions.

VA MAN CHANNELED EXHAUST, CUT THROATS OF TWINS: MECHANICSVILLE, Va. (AP) — A suburban Richmond man going through a custody battle with his estranged wife used duct work to channel the exhaust from a van into a bedroom, where he sliced his neck and those of his twin 3-year-old daughters, authorities said Monday.

Hanover County deputies received a call just after 3:30 p.m. Saturday from the girls' mother, Kristina Hooper. When they arrived, she was crying on her knees at the end of the gravel driveway, court records said.

"My babies are dead, they're in the house," she told deputies, according to a search warrant affidavit returned Monday.

SENATE CLEARS WAY FOR VOTE ON INSIDER-TRADING BAN: WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is rushing to make it absolutely clear to everyone that its members are banned from insider stock trading, hoping to improve their sagging image that has approval ratings at historic lows.

Senators made the first move Monday. Their 93-2 procedural vote cleared the way for Senate passage — possibly later this week — of a bill that would require disclosure of stock transactions within 30 days and explicitly prohibit members of Congress from initiating trades based on non-public information they acquired in their official capacity. The legislation, at least partly symbolic in nature, is aimed at answering critics who say lawmakers profit from businesses where they have special knowledge.

TRUMP CONSIDERING BUILDING PRIVATE CEMETERY IN NJ : BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) — Donald Trump is considering spending eternity next to his golf club in northern New Jersey.

Trump is considering seeking state approval to put a 1.5-acre burial ground next to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster.

Ed Russo says it would be available for club members to rest in peace, but that a section could be saved for Trump and his kin.

The plan would also make the club available for late golfers to have their ashes spread there.

PROTESTERS SUE TVA OVER COSTUME BAN AT MEETINGS: KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Several people who tried to go to a Tennessee Valley Authority board meeting in costumes including Santa Claus and a pirate are suing the utility, which banned such getups after people protesting a nuclear plant dressed up as zombies.

In July, the protesters in Chattanooga dressed as zombies in an effort to convince TVA officials not to re-start construction of the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Alabama, where work had stopped in 1988. Soon after, the utility banned costumes at its meetings in an effort to avoid disruptions.

In August, the four wearing costumes were not allowed to enter a TVA board meeting in Knoxville. A fifth was kicked out of the meeting when he mimicked a zombie.

PYTHONS APPARENTLY WIPING OUT EVERGLADES MAMMALS: WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (AP) — A burgeoning population of huge pythons — many of them pets that were turned loose by their owners when they got too big — appears to be wiping out large numbers of raccoons, opossums, bobcats and other mammals in the Everglades, a study says.

The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that sightings of medium-size mammals are down dramatically — as much as 99 percent, in some cases — in areas where pythons and other large, non-native constrictor snakes are known to be lurking.

Scientists fear the pythons could disrupt the food chain and upset the Everglades' environmental balance in ways difficult to predict.

"The effects of declining mammal populations on the overall Everglades ecosystem, which extends well beyond the national park boundaries, are likely profound," said John Willson, a research scientist at Virginia Tech University and co-author of the study.

Tens of thousands of Burmese pythons, which are native to Southeast Asia, are believed to be living in the Everglades, where they thrive in the warm, humid climate. While many were apparently released by their owners, others may have escaped from pet shops during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and have been reproducing ever since.

 

Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...