UPDATE: Indiana governor wants changes to religious-objections law
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence says he wants legislation on his desk by the end of the week, clarifying that a new religious-freedom law does not allow discrimination.
Pence said Tuesday he has been meeting with lawmakers “around the clock” to address concerns that the law will allow businesses to deny services to gays and lesbians.
The law signed by Pence last week prohibits state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of “person” includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.
Pence says the law has been “grossly mischaracterized” and has put Indiana under a harsh glare. Businesses and organizations including Apple and the NCAA have voiced concern over the effect of the law, and some states have barred government-funded travel to Indiana.
Officials: Iran nuke talks to continue in new phase
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — As the self-imposed deadline arrives, Iran and six world powers are wrapping up six days of marathon nuclear talks in Switzerland with mixed results.
Officials say they’ll be issuing a general statement agreeing to continue the talks in a new phase. The goal will be to reach a final agreement to control Iran’s nuclear ambitions by the end of June.
They’d set a deadline of today for a framework agreement, and later softened that wording to a framework understanding.
There are still obstacles on the issue of uranium enrichment, and where stockpiles of enriched uranium should be stored. There are also still differences to be overcome on the issue of limiting Iran’s nuclear research and development, and on just when the sanctions against Iran should be lifted.
The officials say the joint statement will be accompanied by additional documents outlining more detailed understandings. It will let the sides claim that enough progress has been made thus far to merit a new round of talks.
The talks have already been extended twice. They are part of more than a decade of diplomatic attempts to curb Tehran’s nuclear advance.
Obama could face new pressure for Iran sanctions
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama could be facing new pressure from members of Congress who want to move forward with new legislation imposing sanctions on Iran.
Lawmakers had agreed to hold off on that through the end of this month while negotiations continued. But now those talks are wrapping up, with mixed results. Iran and six world powers are preparing to issue a general statement agreeing only to resume talking.
Obama has warned that passing new sanctions during the talks could disrupt the sensitive discussions.
The White House says any deal will stretch the time Iran needs to make a nuclear weapon from the present two to three months to at least a year. But critics object that it would keep Tehran’s nuclear technology intact.
NEW: Israeli premier: Nuclear deal will ‘pave the way’ for Iran
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister says an emerging deal from nuclear talks in Switzerland will “pave the way” for Iran to have the ability to build an atomic bomb in little time.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a ceremony at Israel’s parliament Tuesday that the deal is expected to leave much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure intact.
Netanyahu said: “Iran’s breakout time to have the tools to make a nuclear weapon won’t be years. In our estimate, it will be reduced to perhaps a year, most likely much less than that.”
Iran and six world powers, led by the U.S., were expected to issue a general statement agreeing to continue the negotiations in hopes of reaching a final deal by the end of June.
Netanyahu has been a vocal critic of the negotiations.
NEW: UN says remaining international staffers leave chaotic Yemen
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations says the last of its international staffers have now left Yemen as the U.N. human rights chief warns of a “total collapse” in the Arab world’s poorest country.
The deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Farhan Haq, says the remaining 13 international staffers are out as of Tuesday and that the U.N. will do what it can with the hundreds of local staffers who are still there.
The U.N. human rights office in Geneva says at least 93 civilians have been killed and 364 wounded in five Yemeni cities in the past five days as Saudi-led airstrikes pound advancing Shiite rebels.
The overall figures are likely much higher. U.N. officials are calling on all sides to protect civilians from harm in the fighting.
Germany, France, Italy plan to develop military drones
BERLIN (AP) — Germany and France plan to work together with Italy to develop military surveillance drones that could also carry weapons.
French President Francois Hollande said after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday that it is important for Europe to be independent in both manufacturing drones and in using the images they produce.
He said that “more and more images are power — those who have images can act.”
The plan is for the European drones to be developed between 2020 and 2025.
The U.S. practice of using drones for lethal strikes against terror suspects has caused unease in Germany. However, Merkel says she’s confident there is “acceptance” in Germany for the idea of developing surveillance drones that could, if Parliament gives its approval, later be armed.
US consumer confidence rises in March
WASHINGTON (AP) — An improving job market drove U.S. consumer confidence higher this month after a dip in February.
The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose to 101.3 in March from revised 98.8 reading in February.
The business group takes into account expectations for the future and consumers’ assessment of current conditions. Consumers were more optimistic about the future, but a little less impressed with current economic conditions.
Over the past year, employers have added nearly 3.3 million jobs, the fastest 12-month pace of hiring since 1998. Consumers are certainly acting more confident: Their spending rose at a 4.4 percent annual rate from October through December, the fastest pace in eight years.
Patriots owner Kraft takes stand in Aaron Hernandez trial
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — New England Patriots team owner Robert Kraft has taken the stand in the murder trial of his former player Aaron Hernandez.
Kraft was called to testify Tuesday morning by the prosecution.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder in the June 17, 2013, killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee.
Kraft was sworn in and asked about his work. He says he runs a business that’s in packaging and paper and private equity and has two sports teams: the New England Revolution and New England Patriots.
Kraft says he took Hernandez aside two days after the slaying and asked whether he was involved. Kraft says Hernandez told him that he was innocent and that he was at a club at the time Lloyd was killed.
BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING
Computer expert: Tsarnaev’s brother searched for bomb parts
BOSTON (AP) — A computer expert testifying in the Boston Marathon bombing trial says Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s (joh-HAHR’ tsahr-NEYE’-ehvz) older brother did Internet searches on bombing components in the weeks before the 2013 terror attack.
The expert says search terms on Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s laptop included “detonator, “transmitter and receiver” and “fireworks firing system.” He says Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s laptop showed his computer activity focused heavily on Facebook and a Russian version of Facebook.
The testimony is part of an effort by Tsarnaev’s lawyers to show that Tamerlan was the mastermind of the bombings. The defense admitted during opening statements that Dzhokhar participated in the attack but said he fell under the influence of the radicalized Tamerlan.
Tamerlan died following a shootout with police days after the bombings.
UPDATE: Police: Men in shooting at NSA had gone to hotel to ‘party’
FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — Police say two cross-dressing men who crashed into a guarded entrance to the National Security Agency in a stolen car met the vehicle’s owner in Baltimore before heading to a hotel to “party.”
Howard County police spokeswoman Mary Phelan says the SUV’s owner picked up the two men, dressed as women, in Baltimore and then headed to the Terrace Motel in Elkridge. Phelan says the vehicle owner told investigators they arrived at the hotel around 7:30 a.m. to “party.”
Phelan says that after about an hour, while the SUV’s owner was in the bathroom, the men stole his car and he called police.
Just before 9 a.m., the two men ignored officers’ orders at a gate at Fort Meade, where the NSA is based. Police fired on the SUV, which rammed into a police vehicle. One suspect was killed. The second was injured.
NEW: Man accused in Ferguson police shooting denied lower bond
CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri judge has refused to reduce the bond of a man accused of shooting two police officers during a rally in Ferguson.
Jeffrey Williams is accused of wounding the officers on March 12, during an early-morning rally sparked by the resignation of Ferguson’s police chief. Both officers are expected to recover.
His attorneys asked that his $300,000 cash bond be reduced so he only would have to come up with $10,000. But the request was denied Tuesday during a hearing in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
Williams is charged with felony assault, armed criminal action and a weapons offense.
Prosecutors allege the 20-year-old told investigators he fired a gun but was aiming at someone else. His attorney says Williams never fired a weapon that day.
TRUCK TIRE DANGER
NEW: AP Exclusive: Big rigs often go faster than tires can handle
DETROIT (AP) — There’s a little-known danger on the nation’s roads from truck tires.
Nearly all truck tires are built for a maximum sustained speed of 75 miles an hour. That’s been the standard since the middle of last decade, when drivers across the vast majority of the U.S. were allowed to go no faster than 65 or 70.
But many tractor-trailers are driven faster than that. Fourteen states, mainly west of the Mississippi River, now have speed limits of 75, 80 and even 85 miles an hour in part of Texas. Some of those states acted without consulting the tire industry.
Safety advocates and tire experts say habitually driving faster than a tire’s rated speed can generate excessive heat that damages the rubber, which can lead to wrecks and blowouts.
Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed an investigation into blowouts involving certain Michelin tires after determining that truck operators, not the tires, were at fault. An investigator wrote that exceeding the 75 mile-an-hour rating was the most likely cause in all 16 complaints examined.
The blowouts resulted in three crashes but no injuries.
CANADA PYTHON BOYS KILLED
Canada police charge man in deaths of boys killed by python
CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick (AP) — Canadian police have charged a man with criminal negligence causing death after two young brothers were asphyxiated by a python.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced the charge against Jean-Claude Savoie on Tuesday.
Four-year-old Noah Barthe and his 6-year-old brother, Connor, were found dead on Aug. 5, 2013, after an African rock python escaped its enclosure inside Savoie’s apartment in Campbellton, New Brunswick, where the boys were staying for a sleepover.
Police said at the time that the 45-kilogram (100-pound) snake escaped a glass tank through a vent and slithered through a ventilation pipe. Its weight caused the pipe to collapse, and it fell into the living room where the boys were sleeping. Autopsies concluded that the boys died from asphyxiation.
Savoie owns an exotic pet store.
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