Jury selection begins for Lacey Spears trial
The jury selection process in the trial of Lacey Spears began at Westchester County Court on Monday with an examination of more than 70 prospective jurors.
The jurors are being evaluated for their fitness to examine the murder case against the Chestnut Ridge mother accused of poisoning her 5-year-old son Garnett. The trial is expected to last at least a few weeks.
Fifteen jurors have stated they might not be able to serve due to health, religious or other reasons and nine have stated they were exposed to media related to the case, but none of them have been excused.
Spears was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter for allegedly poisoning Garnett with a fatal dose of salt administered through a feeding tube. According to prosecutors, activity logs from Spears’ iPhone, iPad and laptop show that she searched for information on sodium poisoning and was aware of the risk posed to her son.
It has been suggested that Spears might suffer from a rare psychological condition known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, which causes caretakers to sicken their patients to elicit sympathy from others.
Cambridge University Press to lay off 42 workers
Cambridge University Press announced this week that it intends to lay off 42 workers employed at its West Nyack warehouse.
The decision came only months after a decision by CBRE Group, the owners of the warehouse, to sell the property to Diamond Properties for $36 million. The layoffs are expected to begin on April 30 and continue untilJune 30.
The property once served as the U.S. headquarters of the Cambridge University Press and its distribution center.
Strategic Syrian city recaptured from ISIS
U.S.-backed Kurdish rebels succeeded in recapturing the strategic Syrian city of Kobani from Islamic State fighters, with an official announcement of the victory expected on Tuesday.
The strategic city, which lies on the border with Turkey and had been under ISIS control since October 6, was recaptured by Kurdish-affiliated YPG units backed by withering U.S. airstrikes. After driving out ISIS occupiers, Kurdish forces went house-to-house to check for booby traps before residents were invited to return to their homes.
Losses by both sides were significant, but ISIS bore the brunt of the casualties. Out of the thousands killed, 979 were ISIS combatants while 324 were YPG fighters and 12 were YPG-affiliated rebels. 38 more ISIS militants were killed by booby traps and 12 civilians were also killed by ISIS shelling.
The week has been particularly difficult for ISIS, which has been driven back on two fronts. Aside fron the victory in Syria, Iraqi security freed Iraq’s Diyala Province from ISIS control on Sunday after the Islamist group attempted to expand into the region. 58 people were killed in the fighting, including two journalists.
Recreational drone operator admits to accidental crash on White House grounds
A drone hobbyist admitted to the Secret Service that he accidentally crashed a small, remotely-piloted aircraft on White House grounds early Monday morning, sending the White House into lockdown mode.
The Secret Service stated that the owner of the craft voluntarily contacted the White House about six hours after a small “quadcopter” crashed on White House grounds. They did not release the individual’s name, but stated that the man, a D.C. resident, was cooperating with their investigation and that they had no reason to doubt his account.
President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were visiting India at the time of the incident. Though the location of the rest of the First Family was not made public, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated neither the First Family nor the building itself were placed at risk.
The incident is the latest of several security breaches which shook up the Secret Service and led to an overhaul of security protocols at the White House. During the latest incident in September, a knife-wielding man managed to hop the White House’s perimeter fence and ran through the mansion’s first floor before he was apprehended.
Anti-bailout left wing politician sworn in as Prime Minister of Greece
The head of Greece’s far-left Syriza Party took power this week, shaking up established political parties in Greece and indicating Greek dissatisfaction with the handling of the country’s debt crisis by the major parties.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsirpas took his oath of office less than 24 hours after winning the country’s general elections on Sunday. Running on an anti-austerity platform, Tsirpas had promised to re-negotiate the country’s crushing €240 billion in debt from Eurozone bailouts, a total which amounts to about $268 billion.
Though he wishes to reduce Greece’s debt burden, the new Prime Minister also indicated he wishes for Greece to cooperate with debt-holders and stay in the Eurozone. Syriza is expected to accomplish this partly with the help of coalition partners, including an unlikely alliance between Syriza and the right-wing populist Independent Greeks, who are opposite the ruling party on social issues but equally opposed to austerity.
Tsirpas’ Syriza Party won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, as well. The party managed to snag 149 seats in the 300 seat Greek Parliament, only two short of an absolute majority.
Boston Bombing prosecutors to present unreleased video evidence
As the opening statements in the trial of the alleged Boston Marathon bomber draw near, Boston is bracing for new video evidence which purports to show the planting, detonation and aftermath of one of the bombs planted by the suspect on trial.
Security stills have already been broadly released showing Dzokhar Tsarnaev and his deceased brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev shortly before the two blasts, but unreleased footage made available to the prosecution the prosecution shows even more. According to prosecutors, the graphic footage shows the defendant plant a bomb which would later kill 8-year-old Martin Richard and injure members of his family.
The short tape also shows the detonation of the bomb, the subsequent death of Richard and the injury of several members of his family. It is likely the footage will be used to sway jurors to see Richard’s death as an aggravating factor and add to the prosecution’s case for the death penalty.
For the attack, which killed three people and wounded more than 260, Tsarnaev faces 17 capital murder charges. Tsarnaev has pled not guilty and his defense counsel is fighting for a change of venue, arguing Boston’s emotions are still too raw for the possibility of a fair trial. However, no relief has been granted and the trial remains in Boston.
Former Fox producer commits suicide outside News Corp building in Manhattan
A former producer for a Fox News affiliate in Austin, Texas shot himself to death outside the company’s corporate headquarters in Manhattan, alleging the company unfairly targeted him for termination.
Phillip Perea died after shooting himself once in the chest shortly before 9 a.m. Two shots were initially reported, but police determined the second was merely an echo of the first.
Perea also uploaded a 23-minute YouTube video which consisted of a recording of a conversation between him and the station’s general manager Mike Lewis. In the recording, the manager alleges that Perea’s employees felt uncomfortable and fearful around him before suspending him without pay.
In response, Perea outlined his claims in a 100-page suicide note that argued two prior negative reviews were unfair. He also printed out business cards found at the scene which read “The American workplace bully: How Fox News ended my career.”
Armed group in Mali kills 12 people in suicide attack
A pro-government group in Mali orchestrated a deadly suicide bombing on Tuesday night, killing a dozen people and jeopardizing peacekeeping efforts in the region.
The attackers, who were affiliated with a pro-government group commonly known as GATIA, attacked rebel forces associated with a separatist movement in the Tabankort region of Mali. Attacking fighters were accompanied by three suicide bombers, two of which managed to reach their targets while one was killed before he could detonate the explosives.
The desert region has been embroiled in civil war since the 1960s, when a succession of rebel movements have attempted to secure independence for a region Tuareg homeland separatists refer to as “Azawad.” Armed forces with MINUSMA-the UN’s peacekeeping force in Mali-have attempted to maintain a ceasefire in the region with a “temporary security zone” in Tabankort, but were forced to pull back after anti-MINUSMA protests.
Peacekeeping efforts have met with little success since January 20, when MINUSMA helicopters destroyed a rebel vehicle. UN peacekeepers stated they acted in self-defense, but rebel groups argued the engagement violated UN promises of neutrality.
“Rent is Too Damn High” candidate faces eviction
The living situation of the flamboyant 2010 gubernatorial candidate for the “Rent is Too Damn High” Party might soon serve as a reflection of the cause he championed.
Jimmy McMillan stated on Tuesday that he received an eviction notice which ordered him to vacate his rent-controlled apartment on St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan by February 5. A stay on the eviction notice was filed by McMillan in Federal Court.
McMillan’s issues with his landlord, who is affiliated with Lisco Holdings, began a few years ago when the former candidate’s rent became overdue during court proceedings. According to McMillan, the landlord wants to evict him to make room for another tenant capable of charging market rent.
His attorney John DeMaio stated that the judge in the case refused to allow McMillan to pay a large sum for most of the back rent and gradually pay back the rest.
McMillan has lived in the East Village property since 1977.
Researcher who helped develop the laser dies at 99
Dr. Charles H. Townes, one of the researchers instrumental in the development of the laser, died on Tuesday at the age of 99.
Dr. Townes’ career spanned six decades, during which he researched and developed technology for some of the biggest scientific projects of his day. The researcher has worked on radar bombing systems for the Navy during World War II, advised on lunar landings, assisted with the development of MX missile systems, verified key aspects of Albert Einstein’s theories and developed a super-accurate atomic clock which could measure time to within one second in 300 years, among other accomplishments.
However, Townes is best known for the development of the laser, which he developed from a prior project which amplified microwave radiation. The new technology amplified visible light radiation and became one of the most versatile inventions of the 20th century, paving the way for CD readers, missile defense systems, computer printers, steel-cutting tools and a myriad of other inventions.
For his discovery, Dr. Townes shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics with Russian scientists Nikolai G. Basov and Aleksandr M. Prokhorov, who worked at the Lebedev Institute for Physics in Moscow.
Injured cat claws its way out of premature burial
A cat thought to have been killed by a car shocked its Florida owner when it crawled out of its own grave and showed up at his door, battered but very much alive. The one-and-a-half year old cat, named Bart, was found by his owner after he was hit by a car. The animal was not responsive, so the owner buried him shortly after the accident.
However, Bart was very much alive and spent five days digging itself out of its own grave before it returned to its owner’s home with multiple facial injuries, a broken jaw and serious dehydration. The owner brought the cat to the Animal Health Center of Tampa Bay after he could not afford veterinary services. Bart has since received surgery to repair his jaw and remove his eye, but is expected to make a full recovery in about six weeks.
School groups slam Cuomo for delayed release of aid information
Education advocates have criticized Governor Andrew Cuomo for his unprecedented decision to withhold aid projections for the 2015-2016 fiscal year in an effort to push reforms.
Cuomo argued it is necessary to withhold figures on state school aid because they are integrally tied to educational reforms his administration intends to pursue. According to him, $1.1 billion in increases to about 700 New York schools depends on the reforms, which include items such as tougher teacher evaluations.
Educators, however, are calling foul, arguing the figures are necessary for the timely development of school budgets and the calculation of school tax cap exemptions. School districts are tasked with determining their tax levies and budgets to ensure they stay under the state’s two percent cap.
State Budget Director Robert Megna argued schools are over-reacting to the delay and that they could wait or use existing data to determine their tax-cap exemption figures.