Monday, July 23, 2012

The Wire: Joker-haired suspect in court; Penn State sanctions; Iraq mayhem ... - San Jose Mercury News

Three images of accused movie theater shooter James Holmes making his first court appearance Monday in Centennial, Colo. (RJ Sangosti-Pool/Getty Images)

National editor's pick of the top news stories in the nation and world at this hour:

Colorado shooting suspect's bizarre appearance in court

With hair dyed orange in apparent emulation of the Joker, Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes appeared in court Monday in Centennial, Colo., making odd faces but saying not a word as a judge advised him of his rights. Holmes occasionally widened his eyes and at one point closed them, his head lolling forward. Authorities said he is not cooperating, and there were reports that he was spitting at guards inside the Arapahoe County detention center where he was being kept in isolation

Workers place a tarp on a fence in front of the statue of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno before removing the statue Sunday in State College, Pa. (John Beale/AP Photo)

on suicide watch. He is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, suspected of being the man who burst into a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora on Friday and opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 59. He is expected to be formally charged next Monday and may face the death penalty, prosecutor Carol Chambers said. He sat in the jury box with a public defender at his side, and his attorneys spoke for him, saying he understood his rights. Relatives of shooting victims sat in court and stared at him, some telling reporters afterward that he deserved the death penalty. Technicians spent much of the day Saturday disabling booby traps inside his apartment, which was filled with trip wires, explosive devices and unknown liquids. One official close to the investigation also said a Batman mask was found inside his apartment.

NCAA throws the book at Penn State

Fines of $60 million, a four-year bowl ban, 14 years of victories voided, a cap on scholarships and five years of probation -- these were the sanctions leveled against Penn State football by the NCAA for the years that assistant coach Jerry Sandusky molested children and his superiors did nothing about it. The sanctions stopped short of the "death penalty" that would have shut down Penn State football, but they were a crippling blow to the once-proud program, and they cost the late Coach Joe Paterno his record as the winningest coach in college football. "Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people," NCAA President Mark Emmert said as he announced the penalties in Indianapolis. Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in response, "Against this backdrop, Penn State accepts the penalties and corrective actions announced today by the NCAA." The $60 million in penalties, amounting to the annual gross revenue of the program, will be paid into an

People inspect a destroyed vehicle after a bomb attack in Madain, about 15 miles Baghdad, Iraq, on Monday. (Karim Kadim/AP Photo)

endowment for preventing child sex abuse and assisting victims.

Multiple attacks across Iraq kill more than 100 people

In Iraq's bloodiest day in two years, coordinated attacks killed at least 106 people in 15 cities across the country Monday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the bombings and shootings were similar to past attacks by al-Qaida, which last week declared a new offensive aimed at destabilizing the country. The deadliest attack took place in the town of Taji, north of Baghdad, where 41 people were killed in a double wave of explosions, the second blast timed to kill first responders. And in the northeastern town of Udaim, three carloads of gunmen pulled up to an army base and opened fire, killing 13 soldiers, police officials said. Like past al-Qaida violence, Monday's attacks occurred a few hours apart and targeted mostly security forces and government offices. More than 200 people were wounded Monday, Iraq's deadliest day since a string of attacks on May 10, 2010, killed at least 119. "Al-Qaida is trying to send a message that it is still strong and can choose the time and places to attack," said Shiite lawmaker Hakim al-Zamili.

Syria says it won't use WMD on its own people

Syria admitted Monday that it has chemical and biological weapons, saying

In an image made from amateur video released by Ugarit News and accessed Monday, smoke rises from buildings in Homs, Syria. (AP Photo/Ugarit News via AP video)

it would use them only in case of foreign attack and would not use them on its own citizens. "No chemical or biological weapons will ever be used, and I repeat, will never be used, during the crisis in Syria no matter what the developments inside Syria," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi in a news conference broadcast on state TV. "All of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression." The Syrian government later tried to back away from its admission by sending out an amendment to the statement adding the words "if any" -- a return to its previous position of neither confirming nor denying that it has weapons of mass destruction. A senior U.S. intelligence official said Friday that Syria has moved chemical weapons from the country's north in an attempt to secure and consolidate it, which U.S. officials consider a responsible step, but there has also been a disturbing rise in activity at weapons installations.

Michael Jackson's mother is apparently missing no more

After disturbing reports over the weekend that Michael Jackson's 82-year-old mother had gone missing, authorities said they had found Katherine Jackson safe in Arizona with family members. Paris Jackson, the 14-year-old daughter of the late King of Pop, tweeted early Sunday that her grandmother was missing: "I haven't spoken with her in a week I want her home now." She later tweeted: "The same doctor that testified on behalf of dr murray saying my father was a drug addict (a lie) is caring for my grandmother... just saying." The family drama highlighted schisms in the Jackson family and came days after some of Katherine Jackson's children wrote a letter to the executors of Michael's estate, saying that his will was a fake. Signed by Janet, Randy, Tito, Rebbie and Jermaine Jackson, the letter claimed Katherine Jackson was being manipulated by the executors of the will, which leaves Michael's fortune to his children, his mother and charity. The letter said Katherine's health had been affected and she had suffered a mini-stroke -- which Paris adamantly denied. Katherine had been caring for Paris and her brothers Prince Michael and Blanket, and it was unclear who was caring for them since the family matriarch went missing. It's enough to make you want to cue up Michael's 1991 lamentation of the media's obsession with him, "Why You Wanna Trip On Me."

The Wire, a summary of top national and world news stories from the Associated Press and other wire services, moves weekdays. Contact Karl Kahler at 408-920-5023, or follow him at

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