Escapee caught after 50 years
DENVER — A man who escaped from a Colorado prison in 1974 was found living under an alias in a small town in northern New Mexico after the Denver police officer he shot decades ago helped track him down. Luis Archuleta, 77, also known as Larry Pusateri, was arrested Wednesday in Espanola, New Mexico, where he had been living under the name Ramon Montoya for about 40 years. Archuleta was accused in 1971 of shooting Denver police officer Daril Cinquanta in 1971, who had pulled over Archuleta to check his ID. When Cinquanta tried to check for weapons, the two fought and Cinquanta was shot in the stomach. A jury in 1973 convicted Archuleta of assault with a deadly weapon. Cinquanta, who since retired and started his own private investigation company, never stopped making phone calls and knocking on doors in hopes of tracking down Archuleta. His search paid off when a tipster called. “I get a phone call from an individual and this person says, ‘I’ve thought about it, and I’m gonna tell you where the guy is who shot you,’ and of course I was skeptical,” Cinquanta said. “Forty-six years later, and out of the clear blue I get a phone call. Well, this person gives me his address and his alias … and other facts that meant nothing at the time.” A federal court in Colorado issued a new arrest warrant involving the prison escape and Archuleta was arrested in the small town about 20 miles north of Santa Fe.
NC to relax 10-person limit
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina will ease gathering restrictions for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte this month after a push by the national party for the state to be more accommodating. But the Aug. 21-24 event culminating in President Donald Trump’s nomination will be nothing like conventions of previous years in which prominent politicians and party leaders addressed thousands of enthusiastic supporters. The RNC has estimated it would have no more than 500 delegates per day at the Charlotte Convention Center and the Westin hotel. In a letter written to the RNC on Thursday, the state’s health director and chief medical officer, Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, said the Department of Health and Human Services understands more than 10 people may need to assemble indoors to conduct party business.
2 rescued sea turtles released
ISLAMORADA, Fla. — Two rehabilitated sea turtles, rescued at different times and locations by the U.S. Coast Guard, have been released off the Florida Keys. Emma, a 150-pound female loggerhead sea turtle, was recovered in June after she was found floating in the Atlantic Ocean off Islamorada. “Emma” was transported to the Turtle Hospital where treatment included emptying excess air out of her body cavity and a regimen of fluids and vitamins. Bubbles, a 225-pound adult female green sea turtle, was found entangled in an abandoned fishing trap line by recreational boaters in mid-June off Long Key. Officers from the Coast Guard station in Marathon assisted Turtle Hospital staff with the rescue. The entanglement caused irreparable damage to Bubbles’ rear flipper, resulting in amputation surgery. Bubbles was also treated for pneumonia and other issues. Coast Guard Petty Officer Michael Lees described the rescue and Thursday’s release of the sea turtles as a rare treat. “It’s fulfilling to see the final result of a turtle rescue,” Lees said. “Rarely do we get to see the actual release of the turtle.” The Turtle Hospital in the Keys has been rescuing, rehabilitating and returning sea turtles to the wild since 1986.
Life for stealing hedge clippers
NEW ORLEANS — A man caught with stolen hedge clippers decades ago must continue to serve his life sentence, despite a stinging dissent from the chief justice of Louisiana’s Supreme Court, who said the sentence was the result of laws rooted in racism. Justice Bernette Johnson, the only Black person on the seven-member court, outlined the case against Fair Wayne Bryant in a dissent after her colleagues, without comment, declined to review the latest appeal in the 1997 burglary case. Bryant is eligible for parole as a result of a 2018 appellate decision. But Johnson said the sentence itself was “excessive and disproportionate.” Bryant, who is Black, was sentenced as a habitual offender after three previous convictions. According to court records, there was a 1979 attempted armed robbery conviction — a crime classified as violent under Louisiana — and three subsequent non-violent crimes: possession of stolen things in 1987, attempted forgery of a $150 check in 1989; and simple burglary in 1992. A state appellate court held that the sentence was in accordance with the habitual offender law and after an initial appeal failed, no longer subject to review. Johnson said the sentence was so out of proportion to the crime as to be clearly unconstitutional.
Swiss ink deal for vaccine doses
GENEVA — The Swiss federal government says it has struck a deal with Moderna to supply Switzerland with 4.5 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine if the U.S. biotech firm successfully develops one. The Federal Office of Public Health says the agreement aims “to guarantee Switzerland early access to the vaccine of Moderna” and is one of the first such deals by any government with the company. “The federal government wants to ensure that the Swiss population has rapid access to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine,” an office statement said Thursday. “At the same time, Switzerland is supporting multilateral projects for the fair distribution of a future vaccine.” The Moderna deal would make it possible to vaccinate 2.25 million people, because expectations are that two doses would be needed, it said. That would be enough for more than a fourth of the wealthy Alpine country’s population of about 8.2 million.
A ‘most sophisticated’ tunnel
PHOENIX — An incomplete tunnel found stretching from Arizona to Mexico appears to be “the most sophisticated tunnel in U.S. history,” authorities said. The tunnel intended for smuggling ran from San Luis, Arizona, to a Mexican neighborhood and had a ventilation system, water lines, electrical wiring, a rail system and extensive reinforcement, federal officials said Thursday. “This appears to be the most sophisticated tunnel in U.S. history, and certainly the most sophisticated I’ve seen in my career,” said Carl E. Landrum, acting chief patrol agent with the Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector. Homeland Security Investigations found the tunnel in late July. A camera was sent 25 feet underground after federal agents discovered a sinkhole in the area of a tunnel investigation. Photos show the tunnel measured 3 feet wide and 4 feet high.
Russia: We’re first with vaccine
MOSCOW — Russia boasts that it’s about to become the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, with mass vaccinations planned as early as October using shots that are yet to complete clinical trials — and scientists worldwide are sounding the alarm that the headlong rush could backfire. Moscow sees a Sputnik-like propaganda victory, recalling the Soviet Union’s launch of the world’s first satellite in 1957. But the experimental COVID-19 shots began first-in-human testing on a few dozen people less than two months ago, and there’s no published scientific evidence yet backing Russia’s late entry to the global vaccine race, much less explaining why it should be considered a front-runner. “I’m worried that Russia is cutting corners so that the vaccine that will come out may be not just ineffective, but also unsafe,” said Lawrence Gostin, a global public health law expert at Georgetown University. “It doesn’t work that way. … Trials come first. That’s really important.” According to Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s Direct Investment Fund that bankrolled the effort, a vaccine developed by the Gamaleya research institute in Moscow may be approved in days, before scientists complete what’s called a Phase 3 study. That final-stage study, usually involving tens of thousands of people, is the only way to prove if an experimental vaccine is safe and really works. Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said members of “risk groups,” such as medical workers, may be offered the vaccine this month. He didn’t clarify whether they would be part of the Phase 3 study that is said to be completed after the vaccine receives “conditional approval.”
Ex-finance minister charged
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s former finance minister was charged Friday with corruption over a $1.5 billion undersea tunnel project, a move he slammed as political persecution by the new government. Lim Guan Eng, who was part of a reformist government ousted in March, pleaded not guilty to a charge of soliciting 10% of potential profits in 2011 as a bribe for the contract. He was detained late Thursday by the anti-corruption agency after they summoned him for questioning over the project in northern Penang state. The project was approved during Lim’s tenure as Penang chief minister from 2008-2018, before he became Malaysia’s finance minister. The 7.2 kilometre (4.5 miles) tunnel project from Penang island to peninsular Malaysia includes several highways and is to be funded through a land swap of reclaimed prime land. “This is a baseless allegation and it’s politically motivated to tarnish and smear my reputation as well as, of course, my effort to execute my role as an opposition parliamentarian,” Lim, 59, told reporters after he was released on bail. The charge didn’t mention how much Lim could have gained. He faces up to 20 years in jail and a fine if convicted.
4th Canadian sentenced to death
BEIJING — China has sentenced a fourth Canadian citizen to death on drug charges in less than two years following a sharp downturn in ties over the arrest of an executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei. Ye Jianhui was sentenced Friday by the Foshan Municipal Intermediate Court in the southern province of Guangdong. Ye had been found guilty of manufacturing and transporting illegal drugs, the court said in a brief statement. Another suspect in the case was also given the death penalty and four others sentenced to between seven years and life in prison, it said. Death sentences are automatically referred to China’s highest court for review. Ties between Canada and China have nosedived over Canada’s late 2018 arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a company executive and the daughter of Huawei’s founder, at Vancouver’s airport at the request of the U.S., which wants her extradited to face fraud charges over the company’s dealings with Iran. Her arrest enraged Beijing, which calls it a political move aimed at constraining China’s rise as a global technology power.
4.8 quake shakes Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A magnitude 4.8 earthquake struck southern Puerto Rico late Thursday at a shallow depth in the same region that has not stopped shaking since late December. The quake hit near the southern town of Guayanilla at a depth of 7 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The tremor initially was reported with a preliminary magnitude of 5.1. No immediate damage was reported, although many Puerto Ricans were jolted from their beds. “It was felt everywhere,” Victor Huerfano, director of the island’s seismic network, said. He said it is one of many aftershocks that have occurred since a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck in early January, killing one person and causing million of dollars in damage along Puerto Rico’s southern coast.
Charged in ballpayer’s OD death
FORT WORTH, Texas — A former Angels employee has been charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl in connection with last year’s overdose death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs. Eric Prescott Kay was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, and made his first appearance Friday in federal court. Kay was communications director for the Angels. Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in the Dallas area July 1, 2019, before the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. The first game was postponed before the teams played the final three games. Skaggs died after choking on his vomit with a toxic mix of alcohol and the powerful painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his system, a coroner’s report said. Prosecutors accused Kay of providing the fentanyl to Skaggs and others, who were not named. If convicted, Kay faces up to 20 years in prison.
Last intact ice shelf collapses
Much of Canada’s remaining intact ice shelf has broken apart into hulking iceberg islands thanks to a hot summer and global warming, Canada’s 4,000-year-old Milne Ice Shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island had been the country’s last intact ice shelf until the end of July when ice analyst Adrienne White of the Canadian Ice Service noticed that satellite photos showed that about 43% of it had broken off. She said it happened around July 30 or 31. Two giant icebergs formed along with lots of smaller ones, and they have already started drifting away, White said. The biggest is nearly the size of Manhattan — 21 square miles and 7 miles long. They are 230 to 260 feet thick. “This is a huge, huge block of ice,” White said. “If one of these is moving toward an oil rig, there’s nothing you can really do aside from move your oil rig.” The 72-square mile undulating white ice shelf of ridges and troughs dotted with blue meltwater had been larger than the District of Columbia but now is down to 41 square miles. Temperatures from May to early August in the region have been 9 degree warmer than the 1980 to 2010 average, University of Ottawa glaciology professor Luke Copland said. This is on top of an Arctic that already had been warming much faster than the rest of globe, with this region warming even faster.
Outage leaves Manhattan in dark
NEW YORK — A power outage cast darkness across large swaths of Manhattan early Friday, as tens of thousands of people in other parts of New York City were still without electricity in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias. A spokesperson for Consolidated Edison said Friday’s blackout started at 5:13 a.m. in Harlem, the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side and affected about 180,000 customers. The outage lasted about a half-hour, he said. Another 5,000 customers lost power in a separate outage in Queens. Subway service on several lines was affected.
India surpasses 2M cases
NEW DELHI — As India hit another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, crossing 2 million confirmed cases and more than 41,000 deaths, community health volunteers went on strike complaining they were ill-equipped to respond to the wave of infection in rural areas. Even as India has maintained comparatively low mortality rates, the disease has spread widely across the country, with the burden shifting in recent weeks from cities with robust health systems to rural areas, where resources are scarce or nonexistent. The Health Ministry reported 62,538 cases in the past 24 hours, raising the nation’s confirmed total to 2,027,074. It said 886 more people had died, for a total of 41,585. But the ministry said that recoveries were growing. India has the third-highest caseload in the world after the United States and Brazil. It has the fifth-most deaths but its fatality rate of about 2% is far lower than the top two hardest-hit countries. The rate in the U.S. is 3.3%, and in Brazil 3.4%, Johns Hopkins University figures show.
Monsoon flood, mudslide in India
NEW DELHI — A mudslide triggered by heavy monsoon rain and flooding killed at least 15 people and buried 20 homes of tea plantation workers in southern India on Friday. Twelve people have been rescued, said police officer Eldhose Madhai, adding that more than 50 people were unaccounted for in the region. Communication links and electricity lines were snapped and a bridge in the area was washed away. The meteorological office issued a red alert with more rain expected in the region. A Hindu temple in Ernakulam district on the bank of the Periyar River was almost submerged as water levels rose after sluice gates of a dam were opened.
More bodies recovered in Beirut
BEIRUT — Rescue teams were still searching the rubble of Beirut’s port for bodies on Friday, nearly three days after a massive explosion sent a wave of destruction through Lebanon’s capital, killing nearly 150 people and wounding thousands. At least three more bodies have been recovered in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 149, according to authorities. The blast shredded a large grain silo, devastated neighborhoods near the port and left several city blocks littered with glass and rubble. French and Russian rescue teams with dogs were searching the port area on Friday, the day after French President Emmanuel Macron paid a visit to the site, promising aid and vowing to press for reforms by Lebanon’s long-entrenched political leaders.
Africa passes 1M confirmed cases
JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 1 million, but global health experts say the true toll is likely several times higher, reflecting the gaping lack of testing for the continent’s 1.3 billion people. While experts say infection tolls in richer nations can be significant undercounts, large numbers of undetected cases are a greater danger for Africa, with many of the world’s weakest health systems. More than 22,000 people have died of COVID-19. The World Health Organization calls the milestone a “pivotal point” for Africa as infections in several countries are surging. The virus has spread beyond major cities “into distant hinterlands” where few health resources exist and reaching care could take days.