News around the world
House passes Colombia free-trade agreement
WASHINGTON (AP) The House has approved a free-trade agreement with Colombia, a strong ally that is seeking to establish a viable democracy after years of drug-related violence and insurgencies.
The vote Wednesday to approve the trade accord was to be followed immediately by votes on free-trade agreements with South Korea and Panama. The Senate was to vote on all three trade deals later Wednesday.
Almost all Colombian goods already enter the U.S. duty-free, but Colombia imposes duties averaging about 14 percent on American manufactured goods. The Obama administration says the agreement will boost U.S. exports, about $12 billion last year, by about $1 billion a year.
Opposition to the Colombia agreement came mainly from Democrats arguing that, despite recent progress, Colombian labor organizers still face suppression and violence.
Texan freed by DNA test after 25 years exonerated
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) A Texas appeals court on Wednesday formally exonerated a former grocery store clerk who spent nearly 25 years in prison for his wife’s 1986 beating death, reaffirming a judge’s decision to set him free last week based on DNA testing that linked her killing to another man.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declared Michael Morton innocent of killing his wife, Christine, and made him eligible to receive $80,000 from the state for each year of confinement, or about $2 million total.
Morton, 57, was convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence and sentenced to life in prison. He maintained over the years that his wife and their 3-year-old son were fine when he left for work at an Austin Safeway the day she was killed, and that an intruder must have attacked her.
DA says he may file some Topeka domestic cases
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) A district attorney in Kansas said Wednesday that his office will review all misdemeanor domestic violence cases forwarded to him by the Topeka police and determine on a case-by-case basis which ones merit pressing charges.
Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, who had announced last month that he would no longer pursue such cases, said in a statement Wednesday that he now has “sole authority” over them after the city of Topeka voted to repeal a local domestic violence ordinance.
“We will do so with less staff, less resources, and severe constraints on our ability to effectively seek justice,” Taylor said. “But we will do so willingly to preserve the public safety of all the citizens of Shawnee County.”
That comes a day after the mayor and council of Kansas’ capital city repealed Topeka’s ordinance against domestic violence, a dramatic turn in their attempt to force the county to back away from its earlier decision. Advocates for victims of domestic violence had decried those moves as ones that would hurt public safety and put people who were already scared at greater risk.
Taylor said in September that his decision to stop prosecuting misdemeanors committed inside Topeka was because of budget cuts. He contends that the county commission forced his hand by reducing the budget by 10 percent for 2012, when his office is swamped by felony cases.
City leaders argue that Topeka can’t afford to replicate county services for domestic abuse victims or rent jail space from the county for suspects.
Effort to repeal California gay history law fails
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) Opponents of a California law requiring that the contributions of gays and lesbians be taught in public schools have failed in their attempt to qualify a ballot referendum to repeal the law.
Groups that had been circulating signature petitions said they would not meet the Wednesday deadline to file.
Traditional Values Coalition spokesman Benjamin Lopez tells The Associated Press the groups felt they were not in a position to file. He would not say how close they came to collecting the required 505,000 petition signatures.
The groups wanted to force a vote on Senate Bill 48, the nation’s first law requiring that public schools include gay rights milestones and gay and lesbian contributions in social studies lessons. It takes effect in January.
Next moves uncertain on Obama jobs bill
WASHINGTON (AP) President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in the Senate promise additional votes on pieces of the president’s $447 billion jobs bill, but how those pieces might be arranged and when the votes might be taken is up in the air.
The jobs package died Tuesday at the hands of Senate Republicans, but Obama and his Senate Democratic supporters promise to force votes on items such as infrastructure spending, jobless assistance, aid to local governments, and tax cuts for individuals and businesses that were major parts of the massive bill.
Obama’s top ally in the Senate says it’s unclear which items will get votes.
“I’m not positive at this time what piece of the president’s bill we’re going to do,” Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said.
Instead, Reid said the chamber will first debate a bundle of appropriations bills setting next year’s budgets for the departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development. That’s likely to consume next week. And with the chamber taking a vacation at the end of the month, it appears that it’ll be November at the earliest before any pieces of Obama’s jobs package get a re vote.
Women end sex strike in remote Colombian town
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) The women of the Colombian town of Barbacoas have declared their sex strike over.
It is not clear how many women took part, and compliance is impossible to prove. But the women of the remote southwestern town say their demand for a road was met.
They announced June 22 that they would deny their partners sex until authorities began paving a 35-mile (57-kilometer) road linking the town of 35,000 people with the provincial capital of Pasto.
Army engineers began work Tuesday. The paved road will cut travel time by at least six hours.
Barbacoas Mayor Jose Arnulfo Preciado tells The Associated Press he’ll happily submit to a polygraph to prove the protest was honored. He says his wife slept in a separate room during the strike.
Naming of Bulger tipster worries FBI observers
BOSTON (AP) A Boston newspaper’s naming of a tipster who led the FBI to a notorious gangster is raising concerns about her safety and whether it will discourage others from speaking up.
The Boston Globe reported over the weekend former Miss Iceland Anna Bjornsdottir (bay-ORNZ’-dah-teer) tipped off the FBI to the whereabouts of James “Whitey” Bulger (BUL’-jur) and his girlfriend in Santa Monica, Calif.
The FBI said Wednesday it didn’t respond to the Globe’s requests for comment because that would’ve confirmed or denied the identity of a tipster.
Globe editors say they thought it was important to write about how Bulger was caught in part to rebut conspiracy theories. The newspaper says it learned the tipster’s identity by talking to Bulger’s neighbors. The tipster was friends with Bulger’s girlfriend.
Bulger is charged with participating in 19 murders. He has pleaded not guilty.