Rubio, Diaz-Balart want investigation of Raul Castro in 1996 shoot-down of exile planes

MIAMI — Two Florida Republicans, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, have asked President Donald Trump to consider an investigation into whether Cuba’s former ruler, Raul Castro, should be indicted for the 1996 shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes.

The shoot-down by Cuban military planes resulted in the deaths of three U.S. citizens — Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre and Mario de la Pena — as well as the death of Pablo Morales, a U.S. permanent resident.

“We urge you to consider new, additional actions to hold the Castro regime accountable for its crimes. For that reason, within all applicable rules and regulations, we urge you to direct the Department of Justice to review whether Raul Castro should be indicted for the illegal and heinous act” of shooting down the two civilian aircraft in international waters, Rubio and Diaz-Balart said in a letter they sent to the president on Monday.

Brothers to the Rescue made volunteer flights in the Straits of Florida to search for Cuban rafters who had fled the island by sea. The organization also made flights inside Cuban territory to drop pamphlets denouncing the government of the late Fidel Castro. At the time, Raul Castro was the minister of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces.

Cuban authorities asked the U.S. government to ground the flights, but they continued and on Feb. 24, 1996, two Cuban military planes shot down two of the Brothers to the Rescue planes.

In 2003, a U.S. federal court in Miami indicted three Cuban officials on charges of murder, but Raul Castro was not among them. None of them were tried. Gerardo Hernandez, leader of a Cuban spy ring known as the WASP network, was sentenced to life in prison in connection with the shoot-down but he was freed by the Obama administration as part of a prisoner exchange.

— El Nuevo Herald

Hiker dies after fall from Half Dome cables in Yosemite

A hiker has died after he slipped and fell from the Half Dome cables in Yosemite National Park, officials said Tuesday.

The male, who was not named, was hiking with another person during a thunderstorm when he fell at about 4:30 p.m. Monday, according to the National Park Service. Rangers recovered the hiker’s body Tuesday afternoon.

The death marks the first fatality on the Half Dome cables since 2011, the park service said. The cause of the fall is under investigation.

The picturesque Half Dome rises almost 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley. Two metal cables allow hikers to climb the last 400 feet of the summit without rock climbing equipment. According to the park service, most accidents there occur during wet conditions.

— Los Angeles Times

After R. Kelly is a no-show in court — and his attorneys quit — judge tosses lawsuit

CHICAGO — After his two attorneys abandoned ship and no one else showed up for a series of court hearings, R. Kelly has lost a lawsuit.

Last April, the embattled Chicago R&B singer filed a federal lawsuit locally against Comcast Spectacor, which runs the Macon Coliseum in Georgia, alleging the venue failed to pay him $100,000 for his concert there. The lawsuit was seeking $100,000 — the unpaid balance he says he was owed for the performance — as well as damages.

When Kelly failed to appear at a May 15 hearing in Chicago in the breach-of-contract case, U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey threw out the lawsuit, court records show.

The dismissal of the suit also comes after Heather Blaise and Travis Life, the attorneys representing Kelly, stepped down from the case.

“As a result of ethical obligations, Ms. Blaise and Mr. Life are no longer able to represent plaintiff,” the April 25 motion read in part.

Blaise and Life did not immediately return requests for comment.

According to last week’s court minutes, Kelly “was warned that any future failures to appear may subject this case to a dismissal for want of prosecution. This case is hereby dismissed for want of prosecution.” Kelly — via a corporate representative or through new counsel — also failed to appear in court on April 3 and May 8.

Representatives for Kelly told the Chicago Tribune they have no comment on the loss of the suit and why Kelly did not appear in court.

— Chicago Tribune

Rouhani calls for lifting of ban on female fans in Iran’s sports stadiums

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called for a decadeslong stadium ban for women to be lifted, according to statement issued by the president’s office Tuesday.

“There should be no difference between men and women in Islam and for that reason women should also be allowed to take part in sports events,” Rouhani said at a meeting with Iranian athletes at his office, according to the statement.

Women have been banned from stadiums in Iran for 39 years. The ban was imposed by the religious leadership after the 1979 revolution.

Iran’s influential clerics believe women have no place in football stadiums where men are over-excited and vulgar slogans are shouted.

Rouhani rejected these claims, saying women should not be punished for men being vulgar at sporting events.

Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar has suggested that special sections for women or for families in Iran’s arenas could help end the stadium ban.

The clergy has rejected these suggestions.

Protests against the ban have grown in recent months, most noticeably around a World Cup qualifier in September against Syria when Syrian women were allowed to attend the game in Tehran but Iranian women were not — a move Iran’s parliament named “regrettable and annoying discrimination.”

— dpa