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Nation briefs 1/16/08

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Marine died of head injury, autopsy finds

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. -- A 20-year-old pregnant Marine who disappeared in December died from a head injury, authorities said Tuesday, formally rejecting claims by the key suspect in her death that she committed suicide. Dr. Charles Garrett, the Onslow County medical examiner, said Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who was eight months pregnant when she vanished, died from "traumatic head injury due to blunt force trauma." Authorities recovered her burned remains, along with those of her child, over the weekend from a fire pit in the backyard of Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean, a fellow personnel clerk at Camp Lejeune whom she had accused of rape.

Democrats want special counsel in CIA tapes case

Democrats want special counsel in CIA tapes case

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and 18 other House Democrats on Tuesday asked the attorney general to replace a government prosecutor with an outside lawyer to investigate the CIA's destruction of interrogation videotapes. The request comes a day before the CIA's top lawyer, John Rizzo, is due to testify to the House Intelligence Committee about the tapes, which the CIA destroyed in November 2005. Recorded in 2002, they showed the harsh interrogation of two al-Qaida suspects. Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Jan. 2 appointed a Connecticut federal prosecutor to oversee the criminal investigation. Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said in a Tuesday letter to Mukasey that the Justice Department's ability to conduct an independent investigation is compromised because the CIA apparently consulted Justice and White House lawyers about the tapes and their destruction.

Body of third child thrown off bridge found

Body of third child thrown off bridge found

BAYOU LA BATRE, Ala. -- The body of one of four children allegedly tossed from a coastal Alabama bridge by their father was found Tuesday in a Mississippi bayou, authorities said. Kate Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Mobile County Sheriff's Department, said the body was found by a Mississippi marine resources crew in an inlet near Pascagoula. The identity of the child was not immediately confirmed but was believed to be one of four young children allegedly thrown from the Dauphin Island bridge by their father, 37-year-old Lam Luong. The bodies of 3-year-old Ryan Phan and his 4-month-old brother, Danny Luong, were recovered over the weekend in waters a few miles west of the 80-foot-tall coastal bridge, where authorities said the father tossed all four children Jan. 7 after a fight with his wife, 23-year-old Kieu Phan.

Brazil offers oil drilling, food credits to Cuba

Brazil offers oil drilling, food credits to Cuba

HAVANA -- Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met with ailing Fidel Castro on Tuesday, a surprise ending to a visit during which Lula offered Cuba credits for food and infrastructure and signed a deal for his country to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. A Silva spokesman said the pair met in private but would not say where or for how long. Silva is Castro's friend, but it had been unclear until moments before the meeting if he would see him during the trip, the second to Cuba since he took office in 2003. Castro, 81, has not been seen in public since emergency intestinal surgery forced him to cede power to his younger brother Raul in July 2006.

Wisc. votes to overturn ban on heated sidewalks

Wis. votes to overturn ban on heated sidewalks

MADISON, Wis. -- Things are heating up in Wisconsin After the second snowiest December on record in the state capital -- and with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees Tuesday -- the legislature abolished a statewide ban on heated sidewalks, stairs, entrances and pedestrian walkways. The bill, which cleared the state assembly in October and was approved unanimously Tuesday by the state Senate, overturns a law passed in 1980s in response to the energy crisis of the 1970s. Wisconsin is the only state that had such a prohibition in the books. Supporters of overturning the ban argue that with better technology, and the prospect of using less salt and saving money on snow removal, the ban had outlived its usefulness.

-- From wire reports

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