Mandela memorial fake sign language interpreter reportedly faced murder charge a decade ago
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa’s government was confronted Friday with a new and chilling allegation about the bogus sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial: He was reportedly accused of murder 10 years ago.
Officials said they were investigating the revelation by the national eNCA TV news station. But they were unable, or unwilling, to explain why a man who says he is schizophrenic with violent tendencies was allowed to get within arm’s length of President Barack Obama and other world leaders.
Investigators probing Thamsanqa Jantjie “will compile a comprehensive report,” said Phumla Williams, the top government spokeswoman. But she did not say how long the investigation would take and insisted details would not be released until it was completed.
“We are not going to sweep it under the carpet,” Williams said. “We want to own up if there is a mistake, but we don’t want to be dishonest” to Jantjie.
An Associated Press reporter found Jantjie at a makeshift bar owned by his cousin on the outskirts of Soweto Friday, near his concrete house close to shacks and an illegal dump where goats pick at grass between the trash. Asked about the murder allegation, Jantjie turned and walked away without saying anything.
Kansas airport worker arrested in plot to bomb Wichita airport to support al-Qaida
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man was arrested Friday on charges that he planned to set off a car bomb at the Wichita airport in an attack intended to support al-Qaida, authorities said.
Terry Lee Loewen, a 58-year-old avionics technician who worked at the airport, was arrested before dawn as tried to enter the tarmac in a vehicle he believed was loaded with high explosives.
But the materials in the car were inert, and no one at the airport was in any immediate danger, authorities said.
Loewen, who lives in Wichita, had been under investigation for about six months after making online statements to an undercover agent about wanting to commit “violent jihad” against the United States, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.
Authorities said Loewen spent months studying the layout of the Mid-Continent Regional Airport, its flight patterns and other details to maximize fatalities and damage. During that time, he developed a plan with other conspirators to use his employee access card to pull off the attack. The conspirators were actually undercover FBI agents.
Missing American: Pressure on administration to find CIA contractor who disappeared in Iran
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration faced intensified pressure Friday to find former CIA contractor Robert Levinson — both from lawmakers and the Levinson family — nearly seven years after he disappeared in Iran during what now has been revealed as an unofficial spy mission.
Levinson’s family urged the government “to step up and take care of one of its own.” Members of Congress said they wanted to know more about the case, which led to three veteran analysts being forced out of the agency and seven others being disciplined.
Levinson vanished after a March 2007 meeting with an admitted killer on Kish Island, an Iranian resort. For years, the U.S. publicly described him as a private citizen who traveled to the tiny Persian Gulf island on business. But an Associated Press investigation revealed that Levinson actually was a contractor working for the CIA, and was paid by a team of agency analysts who were acting without authority to run spy operations to gather intelligence.
If he is still alive at age 65, Levinson has been captive longer than any other American known to be held overseas.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Levinson, who retired after 28 years at the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, was not a U.S. employee at the time of his disappearance.
More purges could follow in North Korea after execution of leader’s once-powerful uncle
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — The execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle brought a swift and violent end to a man long considered the country’s second most powerful figure. But while Jang Song Thaek is now gone, the fallout from his purge is not over.
In a stunning reversal of the popular image of Jang as a mentor and father figure guiding young Kim Jong Un as he consolidated power, North Korea’s state-run media announced Friday he had been executed, portraying him as a morally corrupt traitor who saw the death of Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, in December 2011 as an opportunity to make his own power play.
Experts who study the authoritarian country, which closely guards its internal workings from both outsiders and citizens, were divided on whether the sudden turn of events reflected turmoil within the highest levels of power or signaled that Kim Jong Un was consolidating his power in a decisive show of strength. Either way, the purge is an unsettling development for a world that is already wary of Kim’s unpredictability amid North Korea’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons.
“If he has to go as high as purging and then executing Jang, it tells you that everything’s not normal,” said Victor Cha, a former senior White House adviser on Asia.
The first appearance of the new narrative came out just days ago, when North Korea accused Jang, 67, of corruption, womanizing, gambling and taking drugs. It said he’d been eliminated from all his posts. Friday’s allegations heaped on claims that he tried “to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state.”
Execution of North Korean leader’s uncle smacks of 20th century-style purge by dictators
PARIS (AP) — For people familiar with the way that dictators such as Stalin, Hitler and Mao methodically ousted their opponents, the purging and execution of the No. 2 official in North Korea is nothing new.
In recent history, Saddam Hussein also was skilled at such tactics to seize and consolidate his power in Iraq.
North Korea’s execution of Kim Jong Un’s uncle in the impoverished, closed and nuclear-armed country suggests that its leader has learned how to rule that way.
The execution of Jang Song Thaek, portrayed in North Korean state media as a morally corrupt traitor, rid Kim of one potential rival. It also may have been designed to sow fear among any others.
Here’s a look at how some despots of yesteryear used purges to quash dissent and cement their lock-hold on power.
Senate sets vote next week on budget legislation; passage expected
WASHINGTON (AP) — One day after winning lopsided House approval, bipartisan legislation to ease across-the-board spending cuts and reduce economy-rattling budget brinkmanship appears likely to command the 60 votes necessary to clear the Senate, officials in both parties said Friday.
Yet unlike in the House, significantly more Senate Republicans are expected to oppose the legislation than vote for it, highlighting the different political forces at work at opposite ends of the Capitol.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced a test vote for Tuesday on the measure, which cleared the House on an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 332-94.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars joined the ranks of the bill’s opponents during the day, citing a provision to reduce cost of living increases for military retirees until they reach age 62. The result could mean “a cumulative loss in retirement income of $80,000” for a sergeant first class who retires at age 40, the group said.
“Although Iraq is over and the war in Afghanistan is winding down, we can’t allow Congress to dismantle the programs they created over the past 12 years,” said William A. Thien, the VFW’s national commander.
Officials raise Mega Millions jackpot to $425 million following brisk sales
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Superstition didn’t deter players hoping that Friday the 13th would bring them good luck in the recently revamped Mega Millions game, as heavy sales prompted lottery officials to boost the jackpot from $400 million to $425 million.
Paula Otto, the Virginia Lottery’s executive director and Mega Millions’ lead director, said sales were 40 percent ahead of projections, prompting officials to boost the jackpot before the Friday night drawing.
“Won’t it be fun if we have a huge lottery winner on Friday the 13th?” she said. “I always say there are no unlucky numbers in the lottery. I work on the 13th floor of our building. I like 13.”
The estimated $425 million jackpot is the second-largest Mega Millions jackpot ever, trailing a $656 million jackpot in March 2012, and it is the fifth-largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history. The current jackpot has rolled over 20 times, and a winner from Friday night’s drawing could have a cash option of $228 million before taxes.
Tom Leuangkhamsone doesn’t usually play Mega Millions, but he bought one ticket Friday morning at a convenience store in Atlanta.