New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell resigns over wine gift

By Heidi Pullyard

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (BNO NEWS) — Barry O’Farrell, the premier of New South Wales, resigned Wednesday morning after failing to inform a commission about an expensive bottle of wine he had received as a gift three years ago, though he insists it was not on purpose.

Australian media received information suggesting O’Farrell had not declared a $ 3,000 bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange Hermitage that he had received from businessman Nick Di Girolamo as a gift in 2011.

On Tuesday, O’Farrell denied any truth to the allegation in a statement to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). “The document does not show the item was ever received by me or my wife on either Wednesday 20 April or Thursday 21 April or Good Friday 22 April or at any other time,” O’Farrell said, referring to a receipt that had been used in media reports.

O’Farrell added, stating: “If I had received a 1959 Grange I would of declared it on my parliamentary and ministerial declaration,” according to local media.

By Wednesday morning, however, a handwritten thank you note signed by O’Farrell was presented by the Obeid family, the head of the company that had given him the bottle of wine. This was quickly shown to ICAC, after which the leader of Australia’s most populous state resigned about an hour later.

O’Farrell still claims that he does not recall the bottle of wine. “The regret for me, Counsel, is having seen the letter, having seen the envelope, it still does not spark a recollection,” he said. O’Farrell could be facing imprisonment of up to five years due to misleading the ICAC, according to local media.

Powerful quake strikes the Atlantic Ocean off Africa, no tsunami alert

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (BNO NEWS) — A powerful and shallow earthquake struck the Atlantic Ocean far south of Africa on early Tuesday morning, but no tsunami was generated and the tremor was centered too far from land to have caused any damage, seismologists said.

The 6.9-magnitude earthquake at 4:57 a.m. local time (0357 GMT) was centered in the South Atlantic Ocean about 364 kilometers (226 miles) east-northeast of the uninhabited Norwegian island of Bouvet, or about 2,279 kilometers (1,416 miles) south-southwest of Hermanus in South Africa. It struck about 11.7 kilometers (7.3 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially cautioned that the earthquake had the potential to generate a local tsunami that could have affected coastlines in the region, but no tsunami warnings or watches were issued. As of late Tuesday afternoon, no unusual sea level changes were observed anywhere.

“A destructive widespread tsunami threat does not exist based on historical earthquake and tsunami data,” the center said in a bulletin.

The Atlantic Ocean south of Africa is regularly rattled by moderate earthquakes, but tremors exceeding magnitude 6 are rare. A moderate to strong earthquake struck near Bouvet Island in February 2006, causing the foundation of a scientific station there to weaken, eventually leading to its loss in a winter storm.

Michael Phelps coming out of retirement, to compete in Arena Grand Prix

By Tashauna Thompson

PHOENIX, ARIZONA (BNO NEWS) — Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Michael Phelps will be coming out of retirement this month and will compete in the upcoming Arena Grand Prix, event organizers announced Monday.

USA Swimming said Phelps, 28, will be swimming competitively for the first time since winning six medals – four of them gold – at the 2012 London Olympic Games. He will be competing along with other swimming stars such as Ryan Lochte and Katie Ledecky.

Phelps first announced his retirement just before the 2012 games. According to USA TODAY, Phelps’ longtime coach, Bow Bowman, said he and Phelps decided months ago on competing in the Arena Grand Prix, which is taking place in Mesa, Arizona, from April 24 through April 26.

“As of today, I definitely expect him to swim,” Bowman told USA TODAY on Monday after USA Swimming announced Phelps’ participation. The 22-time Olympic medalist was entered in the 100-meter butterfly and 100-meter freestyle events.

Phelps’ participation in Mesa is expected to be his first step towards competing in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He rejoined the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s drug testing pool last year and regained his eligibility for competition in March.

“We’re looking forward to it. I think it’ll be great for the sport to have Michael compete again,” Bowman was quoted as saying by USA TODAY. “We really don’t have any expectations for what might happen. We just want to have some fun with it and see how it goes.”

Russian aircraft buzzes U.S. Navy ship in Black Sea in “provocative” act

By Tashauna Thompson

WASHINGTON, DC (BNO NEWS) — A Russian attack aircraft repeatedly flew near a U.S. Navy ship in international waters in the Black Sea over the weekend, the Pentagon said on Monday, describing it as an act that was both “unprofessional and provocative.”

The incident occurred on Saturday when the USS Donald Cook was conducting routine operations in the western area of the Black Sea when the Russian Su-24 Fencer jet made numerous close-range, low-altitude passes near the ship.

The close-range passes ended without further incident after a dozen passes were made in approximately 90 minutes. According to officials, the Russian aircraft did not respond to multiple radio queries and warnings made by the Donald Cook crew.

Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said the Cook was never under any threat as the aircraft appeared to be unarmed. “She’s [the Cook] more than capable of defending herself, but it was unprofessional and provocative behavior,” she said.

The USS Donald Cook was en-route to the Romanian port city of Constanta for routine operations when Saturday’s incident occurred. According to officials, the navy ship has since reached the port to continue its mission.

“This provocative and unprofessional Russian action is inconsistent with international protocols and previous agreements of a professional interaction between our militaries,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren was quoted as saying by Fox News.

Russia has received intense criticism and sanctions from the international community for its role in the crisis in Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea. Last month, U.S. President Barack Obama urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull Russian troops back from the Ukrainian border and lower tensions in the region.

Russia was believed to have a range of troops massing along the border with eastern Ukraine under the guise of military exercises, leading to speculation that Russia planned further intervention in eastern Ukraine. “It may simply be an effort to intimidate Ukraine or it may be that [Russia has] additional plans,” Obama said in an interview.

Dutch police arrest teen over threatening tweet to American Airlines

ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS (BNO NEWS) — A Dutch teenager was arrested in Rotterdam on Monday afternoon after she tweeted a terrorist threat at American Airlines that quickly went viral online, police officials said. It was not immediately known what charges she could face.

The tweet, sent out on Sunday afternoon, was picked up by Dutch police as part of their regular investigation into threatening messages on the social networking website Twitter. It was not on the request of American Airlines or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States, a police spokeswoman said.

During the course of the investigation, the person behind the Twitter account was identified as a 14-year-old girl from Rotterdam, after which she went to a police station and was taken into custody for making a “false report.” It was not immediately clear if the girl would face criminal charges.

In the tweet, which quickly went viral, the girl claimed to be a member of al-Qaeda and said she would do “something really big” in June, though she quickly said it was a joke when American Airlines responded. The American airline lost two of its aircraft on September 11, 2001, when 19 al-Qaeda terrorists carried out an unprecedented attack on the United States, killing nearly 3,000 people.

“Hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye,” the girl, identifying herself only as Sarah, said in Sunday’s tweet. Soon after, American Airlines responded in their own tweet: “Sarah, we take these threats very seriously. Your IP address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI.”

“omfg I was kidding. … I’m so sorry I’m scared now … I was joking and it was my friend not me, take her IP address not mine. … I was kidding pls don’t I’m just a girl pls … and I’m not from Afghanistan,” the girl said in subsequent tweets, later adding: “I’m just a fangirl pls I don’t have evil thoughts and plus I’m a white girl.”

It is not the first time Dutch police have arrested someone for making threats on Twitter. A 17-year-old boy was arrested in Rotterdam in April 2011 after threatening to carry out a mass shooting, saying he was going to “outdo” a gunman who had shot dead six people at a shopping mall hours earlier. Dutch police also arrested a 17-year-old girl in February 2011 after she tweeted she was planning to bomb her school.

Pakistani cannibal re-arrested after baby’s head found at home

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BNO NEWS) — A Pakistani man has been arrested on suspicion of cannibalism after the head of a newborn baby was found at his home, police said on Monday, years after he and his brother admitted to eating at least five corpses they had dug up from a graveyard.

Mohammad Arif, 35, was arrested on Monday morning when officers carried out a raid at his residence in the Darya Khan locality of Bhakkar district in Punjab province. The raid took place after neighbors complained to police about a “stench” emanating from the house, where Arif lives with his 30-year-old brother Mohammad Farman.

Officers searching the residence discovered the head of a newborn baby and Arif admitted to eating the child’s flesh after his brother allegedly took the body from a nearby graveyard, the Express Tribune newspaper reported. An arrest warrant was issued for Farman, who fled the scene.

The brothers were first arrested in April 2011 after relatives of a 24-year-old woman who died of throat cancer found her grave had been disturbed, only a day after the woman’s burial. A police investigation led to the house of the brothers, where officers found the brothers had eaten parts of the woman’s legs.

Arif and Farman later confessed to eating at least five corpses they had dug up from a local graveyard, but investigators believe the true number was likely between 100 and 150. However, because Pakistan has no laws on cannibalism, the brothers were sentenced to only two years of imprisonment on charges relating to the desecration of graves.

The release of Arif and Farman sparked local protests in May 2013, but calm was quickly restored and the brothers continued their lives in isolation, away from other villagers. The wives and family members of the men had left them after their arrest. In an interview with the BBC in August 2013, Ali expressed hope that their acts of cannibalism “will not happen again.”

Gunman kills 3 at Jewish locations in Kansas on eve of Passover

OVERLAND PARK, KANSAS (BNO NEWS) — Three people were killed Sunday when a gunman opened fire at a Jewish community center and a nearby Jewish retirement center in Kansas, U.S. authorities said. A suspect – said to have shouted anti-Semitic slurs – was taken into custody.

The incident began at around 1:03 p.m. local time on Sunday when calls came in of shots fired at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Overland Park, a city that is part of the Kansas City metropolitan area. Other 911 calls came in shortly after when shots rang out at the nearby Village Shalom Retirement Center.

“We immediately understood we had an active shooter and went into our active shooter protocols and began to search for him with the best information we had,” said Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass. “We saturated the area and I believe two of our officers found him in the school parking lot.”

Douglass said three people were shot and killed in the incident, two of them in or near a car at the Jewish Community Center and a third outside the retirement center. Two other people at the community center were also shot at but were not hit, the chief said, adding that it was unclear whether the two uninjured people had been deliberately targeted.

“There were two individuals who were shot at, one extremely close,” Douglass said at a news conference. “We have the back doors of the community center, which has sustained substantial damage. We’re not certain if those were bullets that went past the original victims or whether it was deliberate and intentionally created.”

The suspect was described as a white male in his 70s who is not from Kansas and is not believed to have known the victims.

Authorities said the motive for the shootings was not immediately clear, but witnesses reported hearing the suspect shout “Heil Hitler” after he was taken into custody. Douglass acknowledged that the suspect had made “several statements” while in the back of a police car but gave no specific details.

“The suspect, in the back of the car, made several statements. We are sifting through and vetting those (reports) for accuracy and, number two, we’re looking at them for evidentiary value,” the police chief said when asked about the reported anti-Semitic slur. “It’s too early to tell you what he may or may not have said, but we are trying to determine what that was at the time.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which also investigates hate crimes, was also participating in the investigation. When later asked to clarify whether the shootings were being investigated as a possible hate crime, Douglass added: “We are investigating it as a hate crime, we are investigating it as a criminal act. We haven’t ruled out anything.”

President Barack Obama described as “horrific” Sunday’s shootings, which occurred on the eve of Passover. “Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends who lost a loved one and everyone affected by this tragedy,” he said. “I have asked my team to stay in close touch with our federal, state and local partners and provide the necessary resources to support the ongoing investigation.”

Obama added: “While we do not know all of the details surrounding today’s shooting, the initial reports are heartbreaking. I want to offer my condolences to all the families trying to make sense of this difficult situation and pledge the full support from the federal government as we heal and cope during this trying time.”

B’nai B’rith International, the world’s oldest Jewish service organization, also extended its condolences to the families of the victims. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time there has been a shooting at a Jewish Community Center,” the organization said in a statement. “Comments attributed to the shooter after police had him in custody demonstrate a blind hatred toward Jews.”

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said police were taking steps to ensure the safety of Jewish people during Passover. “The NYPD is taking all steps to ensure the safety and security of Jewish individuals and institutions as Passover is being ushered in,” de Blasio said in a statement.

Utah woman arrested after 7 babies found dead in garage

PLEASANT GROVE, UTAH (BNO NEWS) — A U.S. woman has been arrested on six counts of murder after police discovered the bodies of seven infants at her home in northern Utah, authorities said on Sunday. It is believed the infants, including one thought to be stillborn, were born over a 10-year period.

The grisly discovery was made on Saturday when police were called to a residence in Pleasant Grove, a city southeast of Salt Lake City, after a report of a deceased infant. Officers responded to the residence and observed the body of a newborn infant that appeared to be a full term, police said.

“A search warrant was obtained for the residence and during the execution of the warrant, officers discovered six additional infant bodies. Each infant was found packaged in separate containers,” said Captain Michael Roberts of the Pleasant Grove Police Department.

Roberts said investigators believe that 39-year-old Megan Huntsman gave birth to the infants over a 10 year period before killing six of them. He did not say how the infants were killed or whether anyone had been aware of the woman’s pregnancies. The seventh infant is believed to have been stillborn.

“The female was booked into the Utah County Jail on six counts of murder,” Roberts added. He said the initial call of a deceased infant came from Huntsman’s ex who was helping family members clean out the garage when they found a suspicious box with a “pungent smell,” leading to the discovery.

10 dead, dozens injured in California bus crash

By Tashauna Thompson

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA (BNO NEWS) — A truck collided head-on with a charter bus transporting high school students in northern California on late Thursday afternoon, killing 10 people and injuring at least 30 others, authorities confirmed on Friday.

The accident occurred at 5:40 p.m. local time Thursday when a FedEx truck collided with a charter bus on Interstate 5 near Orland, according to the California Highway Patrol (CHP). The charter bus, which was carrying 44 prospective students for Humboldt State University, was en-route to the school’s spring preview event that was scheduled for Friday.

Upon arrival at the scene, emergency responders found the bus fully engulfed in flames.

Authorities confirmed nine people were killed at the scene of the crash, including the drivers of both the bus and the FedEx truck. A tenth victim who was airlifted to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento later died of his or her injuries, CHP said.

The last of the deceased was removed from the scene on Friday morning. Glenn County Sheriff Larry Jones said positive identification of the deceased may be difficult due to the nature of the sustained burn injuries, prompting the request of medical and dental records.

A total of 31 victims were transported to seven different hospitals in the area with injuries varying from critical to moderate. Witnesses said one of the victims was on fire when he or she fled the bus and was transported to a local hospital with severe burns.

The northbound side of Interstate 5 was closed immediately after Friday’s accident. Emergency responders also set up a mass casualty triage along the southbound side of the freeway to provide immediate care.

Bruce Carpenter, Commander of the CHP’s Willows area, thanked all emergency workers for their prompt response to the incident. “This really was a group effort, there were so many agencies involved, we all worked very well together and the scene was handled very well,” he said.

Investigators believe the FedEx big rig driver may have tried to avoid a Nissan Altima – which was also involved in the crash – when it came in contact with the bus. Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrived at the scene on Friday morning to investigate the cause of the accident alongside CHP.

FedEx Corp. Chairman and CEO Frederick W. Smith said he learned “with great sadness” of the accident involving a FedEx Freight vehicle. “First and foremost, I want to express my deepest personal sympathies and the condolences of over 300,000 other FedEx team members to everyone involved in this accident, including the families of the students and others who lost their lives and those who were injured and the families and friends of the FedEx Freight driver who died in the crash,” he said.

Smith added: “It will take some time to fully understand exactly how this accident occurred and why. In the meantime, I want everyone to know that we at FedEx are committed to providing every resource necessary to assist investigators in their efforts to understand what happened.”

The vehicles involved in the incident were removed on Friday as officials continued processing any remaining evidence left at the scene. The southbound lanes of Interstate 5 reopened on Friday while the northbound lanes remained closed, though they were expected to reopen later in the day.

Two other buses that were also transporting students to Humboldt State University were not involved in the accident and made it safely to HSU. The school said it sent its deepest condolences to the friends and families of those affected, adding: “We are doing everything possible to provide support and assistance.”

Superintendent John Deasy of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) said 19 students from 16 schools were on the bus tour to Humboldt State University. “At this time, we know that there have been 10 fatalities, including five students. However, we do not know if those students attended LAUSD schools,” Deasy said. “Students from throughout Southern California were participating.”

Kenyan airliner goes off runway in Tanzania, injuring 7 passengers

DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA (BNO NEWS) — A Kenya Airways passenger plane carrying 55 people skidded off the runway Friday as it landed in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam during heavy rains, the airline said, adding that seven passengers were injured during the subsequent evacuation.

The incident happened at about 2:34 p.m. local time when Kenya Airways flight KQ482 was attempting to land at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city. At least one engine of the Embraer 190 aircraft suffered damage when the plane skidded off the runway.

“All passengers and crew were evacuated safely. We are cooperating fully with government investigative agencies in Tanzania and Kenya on this matter to establish the cause of the incident,” said Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni. The airline said the aircraft was carrying 49 passengers and six crew members.

Of those on board, seven passengers were injured during the evacuation process, though none of them were believed to be seriously injured. “We can now confirm that the total number of passengers who suffered injuries during the evacuation and had been transferred to hospital for further examination stands at seven,” the airline said in a statement.

It was not immediately known what caused Friday’s incident. Kenya Airways noted in its statement that the incident occurred during heavy rains, but Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) Director-General Fadhili Manongi was quoted as saying that one of the aircraft’s engines may have failed.

Kenya Airways, which was founded in January 1977 and flies to more African destinations than any other carrier, is generally considered to be a safe airline, though its flights have been involved in two major accidents. A total of 169 people died in the crash of Flight 431 off the coast of Ivory Coast in January 2000 and 114 people died in the crash of Flight 507 in Cameroon in May 2007.

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