Looking weary, Cosby jury keeps deliberating

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — By early Wednesday evening, jurors in Bill Cosby’s sexual-assault trial looked tired.

As they returned to the courtroom to ask again to hear key trial testimony — their fifth such request since Monday night — a few slouched in their chairs, yawned, or even appeared to doze off as the judge and lawyers haggled over the request. The panel of seven men and five women also broke what had been their pattern this week and asked to have their dinner delivered early.

After 27 hours of deliberations over three days, not only didn’t they reach a verdict, but there was no sign of how close they might be to deciding Cosby’s fate — or what might be stopping them.

Despite whispers of an impasse by the media that ringed the Norristown courthouse, the seven men and five women locked in the deliberation room never once uttered the word “deadlock” to the judge.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

‘Bags and bags and bags’ of meth-infused lollipops seized in $1 million Texas bust

Sheriff’s Deputies in Harris County thought they were responding to a routine burglary call until they took a closer look at the car.

It was crammed with so much candy-shaped meth that the suspects had trouble closing the trunk, police said.

They think the alleged burglars were stealing from a suspected drug dealer who’d turned her home into an illicit candy factory, the sheriff’s office said on its Facebook page. Authorities hit the mother lode when they went inside: In all, 600 pounds of drug-laced candy with a street value of nearly $1 million.

The meth-pops had been molded into kid-friendly shapes: flowers, butterflies, Batman and the Star Wars characters R2-D2 and Yoda.

“It was just bags and bags and bags of what appeared to be candy lollipops,” Lt. Ruben Diaz, with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, told the Houston Chronicle. He said the meth-pops “appear to us designed to target children,” although he did not detail the department’s rationale for the claim. However, experts said drugs made to look like candy often aren’t meant for children at all.

Evonne C. Mick, 38, and David Salinas, 26, were charged with possession of a controlled substance. Mick’s bail was set at $1 million, the Chronicle reported. Attorneys for Mick and Salinas could not be reached immediately. Investigators haven’t released details about the home’s owner.

— The Washington Post

Mogadishu restaurant bombing kills at least 12

MOGADISHU, Somalia — At least 12 people were killed Wednesday when a suicide bomber and gunmen attacked two popular restaurants in the Somali capital Mogadishu, police and witnesses have reported.

A suicide car bomber blew himself up at the entrance to the Posh Treats restaurant, which also serves as a hotel, killing guards and civilians, Somali police officer Ali Hassan told dpa.

The blast also partially hit a neighboring restaurant. Security officials believe that armed attackers also divided themselves into two groups, storming both establishments, and that hostages are being held in the second building.

Shortly afterward, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack via its radio station Andalus.

The insurgent group, which is seeking an Islamist state in Somalia, described the targeted places as nightclubs popular with non-Islamic business.

— dpa

NSA links cyberattack to Pyongyang

The National Security Agency has linked the North Korean government to the creation of the WannaCry computer worm that affected more than 300,000 people in some 150 countries last month, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

The assessment, which was issued internally last week and has not been made public, is based on an analysis of tactics, techniques and targets that point with “moderate confidence” to North Korea’s spy agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, according to an individual familiar with the report.

The assessment states that “cyber actors” suspected to be “sponsored by” the RGB were behind two versions of WannaCry, a worm that was built around an NSA hacking tool that had been obtained and posted online last year by an anonymous group calling itself the Shadow Brokers.

It was the first computer virus to be paired with ransomware, which encrypts data on victims’ computers and demands a ransom to restore access.

WannaCry was apparently an attempt to raise revenue for the regime, but analysts said the effort was flawed. Though the hackers raised $140,000 in bitcoin, a form of digital currency, so far they have not cashed it in, the analysts said. That is likely because an operational error has made the transactions easy to track, including by law enforcement.

As a result, no online currency exchange will touch it, said Jake Williams, founder of Rendition Infosec, a cybersecurity firm. “This is like knowingly taking tainted bills from a bank robbery,” he said.

Though the assessment is not conclusive, the preponderance of the evidence points to Pyongyang. It includes the range of computer Internet protocol addresses in China historically used by the RGB, and the assessment is consistent with intelligence gathered recently by other Western spy agencies.

— The Washington Post

US-led airstrikes on Syria’s Raqqa cause ‘staggering’ civilian deaths, U.N. says

BEIRUT - Airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition have caused a “staggering” loss of civilian life in recent months around the Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, a United Nations investigative body said Wednesday.

A U.S.-backed ground force entered the city with the help of coalition air raids last week, three years after the area became a hub from which Islamic State leaders planned expansion throughout the region and attacks around the world.

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said Wednesday that coalition airstrikes have deepened the suffering in the city held by extremist fighters.

The commission recorded 300 civilian deaths from coalition airstrikes in Raqqa province between March 1 and May 31, according to Karen AbuZayd, an investigator for the Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

Human rights and monitoring groups have warned for months of the rising human cost of the coalition’s air war in Syria and Iraq as Islamic State forces stake out positions in densely populated civilian areas across what remains of the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate.

On March 22, the U.N. commission recorded 200 civilian deaths at an old school building in the village of Mansoura that was sheltering displaced families from across the province.

The U.S. military said at the time that it was aware of the reports and was opening an investigation.

— The Washington Post

Israelis, Palestinians deny Tillerson remark on payments to family of attackers

TEL AVIV, Israel — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson achieved a momentary consensus among Israeli and Palestinian officials — but not in the way he may have hoped.

Officials in Tel Aviv and Ramallah on Wednesday denied remarks by Tillerson a day earlier before the U.S. Senate that the Palestinians had agreed to stop a long-standing policy to give financial support to the relatives of individuals involved in attacks against Israelis.

“They have changed their policy,” Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. “Their intent is to cease the payments to the family members of those who have committed murder or violence against others.”

But Palestinian officials said payments to relatives of attackers and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel would continue. Support for Palestinian prisoners and families of so-called Palestinian “martyrs” enjoys wide consensus among the Palestinian public.

Israeli officials were also flummoxed by Tillerson’s comments, saying they were unaware of any change.

— Los Angeles Times

Qatar slams `illegal siege’ as neighbors try to sway U.S.

Qatar said it is under an “illegal siege” by the Saudi-led alliance, which raised the stakes in the diplomatic crisis by encouraging the U.S. to move a key military base from the tiny Gulf state.

The decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to sever diplomatic and transport links can’t be described as merely a “boycott,” Qatar said in a statement carried by the official news agency on Wednesday. The country has enough food and medical supplies, according to the statement, an apparent response to Saudi Arabia’s offer of aid late Tuesday.

The response signaled the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas is preparing for the dispute with its neighbors to drag on, after both sides stepped up efforts to win support from the U.S. over the past week. Yousef Al Otaiba, the U.A.E.’s envoy in Washington, said the Trump administration should consider moving its air base out of Qatar, the Associated Press reported, a decision that — while extremely unlikely — would leave Qatar without a significant insurance policy in the crisis.

The U.S. has around 10,000 troops in Qatar, as well as the forward headquarters of the military’s Central Command that’s conducting air campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. The U.S. Department of Defense is likely to “resist very strongly” any suggestion of moving the Al Udaid base, according to Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Middle East fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute.

— Bloomberg

Four killed in shooting at San Francisco UPS facility, including gunman

A gunman shot and killed three people at a United Parcel Service facility in San Francisco Wednesday morning, before fatally shooting himself in front of police officers, authorities say.

Six people suffered gunshot wounds and four were killed, according to San Francisco Police.

The dead included the gunman, who shot himself in the head, according to Assistant Chief Toney Chaplin.

“We believe this incident is not related to terrorism,” Chaplin, told reporters.

Steve Gaut, a UPS spokesman said the shooter was a driver and in uniform. All of the workers involved were on the clock and gathering for their morning meeting before heading out with their parcels, he said.

— Los Angeles Times

Michigan governor won’t suspend top health department officials charged in Flint water case

FLINT, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday he is standing behind two top health department officials who face serious felony charges in the Flint drinking water investigation.

Snyder issued his statement after Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that Department of Health and Services Director Nick Lyon has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and Snyder’s Chief Medical Executive, Dr. Eden Wells, is charged with obstruction of justice.

“Director Lyon and Dr. Wells have been and continue to be instrumental in Flint’s recovery,” Snyder said in a news release. “They have my full faith and confidence, and will remain on duty at DHHS.”

The governor said Lyon and Wells, “like every other person who has been charged with a crime by Bill Schuette, are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Snyder said “some state employees were charged over a year ago and have been suspended from work since that time. They still have not had their day in court. That is not justice for Flint nor for those who have been charged.”

— Detroit Free Press

Dozens of Islamic State militants in suicide vests launch Mosul counterattack

IRBIL, Iraq - Dozens of Islamic State militants wearing suicide vests penetrated Iraqi police lines in Mosul on Wednesday, police officers said, retaking ground in a large-scale counterattack and sending residents fleeing.

Starting at around 3 a.m. the militants launched seven car bombs at the front lines south of the Old City, their last remaining foothold, said Lt. Col. Hussein al-Lami, a federal police commander. Simultaneously 25 fighters wearing suicide vests attacked them from behind their lines.

The militants had snuck down the Tigris River and attacked with the assistance of “sleeper cells” which provided vehicles for them, he said.

After eight months of battle, Islamic State fighters have been penned into the narrow streets and alleyways of Mosul’s historic city center as well as a small area around a hospital just to the north.

Iraqi and U.S. military officials estimate that up to 1,000 fighters may remain in the area of just over a square mile. Penned in, they have little choice but to fight to the death.

— The Washington Post