05 24 2016
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  • The judge concluded Officer Edward Nero played little role in the arrest and wasn't responsible for the failure by police to buckle Gray in  
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  • Bill Cosby faces a preliminary hearing Tuesday to determine if his criminal sex-assault case in suburban Philadelphia goes to trial.Prosecutors had declined to charge the comedian-actor over the 2005 complaint, but arrested him in December after his explosive deposition in the woman's lawsuit became public. In the testimony given in that deposition, Cosby is grilled about giving drugs and alcohol to women before sex; making secret payments to ex-lovers; and hosting Andrea Constand at his home. They knew each other through Temple University, where he was a trustee and she managed the women's basketball team. Bill Cosby's wife refused to answer dozens of questions during a combative deposition in a defamation lawsuit filed by seven women who say the comedian branded them liars after they accused him of sexually assaulting them, according to a transcript released Friday. Camille Cosby was subjected to intense questioning by the women's lawyer, who repeatedly pressed her to say whether she believes her husband "acted with a lack of integrity" during their 52-year marriage. The lawyer also asked if her husband used his position and power "to manipulate young women." Camille Cosby didn't answer those questions and many others after her lawyer cited marital privilege, the legal protection given to communications between spouses. She repeatedly said she had "no opinion" when pressed on whether she viewed her husband's behavior as dishonest and a violation of their marriage vows. About 50 women have publicly accused Bill Cosby of forcing unwanted sexual contact on them decades ago. Cosby has denied the allegations. He faces a criminal case in Pennsylvania, where prosecutors have charged him with sexually violating a former Temple University employee, Andrea Constand. He has pleaded not guilty. Camille Cosby answered questions in the deposition Feb. 22 and again April 19 after her lawyers argued unsuccessfully to stop it. A judge ruled she would have to give a deposition but said she could refuse to answer questions about private communications between her and her husband. Camille Cosby's lawyer, Monique Pressley, repeatedly cited that privilege and advised her not to answer many questions asked by the women's lawyer, Joseph Cammarata. The exchanges between Cammarata and Cosby became testy at times, and she admonished him: "Don't lecture me. Just keep going with the questions." Using a transcript of a deposition Bill Cosby gave in a civil lawsuit filed by Constand in 2005 and a transcript of an interview she gave to Oprah Winfrey in 2000, Cammarata asked Camille Cosby about extramarital affairs her husband had. "Were you aware of your husband setting up trusts for the benefit of women that he had a sexual relationship with?" Cammarata asked. She didn't answer after her lawyer cited marital privilege. Cammarata asked her about Shawn Thompson, a woman who said Bill Cosby fathered her daughter, Autumn Jackson, in the 1970s. Jackson was convicted in 1997 of attempting to extort money from Bill Cosby to prevent her from telling a tabloid she's his daughter. He acknowledged he had an affair with her mother and had given her money. "Was it a big deal when this came up in the 1970s that your husband had — big deal to you that your husband had an extramarital affair and potentially had a daughter from that extramarital affair?" Cammarata asked. "It was a big deal then, yes," Camille Cosby replied. She said she had "no opinion" on whether her husband's admission he obtained quaaludes to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex violated their marriage vows. Her lawyer objected and instructed her not to answer when Cammarata asked her if she ever suspected she had been given any type of drug to alter her state of consciousness when she had sex with her husband. A spokesman for the Cosbys declined to comment on her deposition. The Cosbys have a home in Shelburne Falls, an hour's drive from Springfield, where the lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages, was filed. An attorney handling a separate lawsuit against Bill Cosby revealed Friday that Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner provided sworn testimony Wednesday. In the sexual battery lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, Judy Huth says Cosby forced her to perform a sex act on him at the Playboy Mansion around 1974, when she was 15. Bill Cosby's former lawyers have accused Huth of attempting to extort him before filing the case and have tried unsuccessfully to have it dismissed. Huth's attorney, Gloria Allred, said Hefner's testimony will remain under seal for now. Hefner also was named as a defendant in a case filed Monday by former model Chloe Goins, who accuses Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually abusing her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008.   The Associated Press generally doesn't identify people who say they're victims of sexual abuse, but the women accusing Cosby have come forward to tell their stories.___AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report from Los Angeles.
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  • Some hope killing will bring peace in Afghanistan     
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This file image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq during his first public appearance. The Islamic State group has released a new message purportedly from its reclusive leader, claiming his self-styled “caliphate” is doing “well” despite an unprecedented alliance against it. (AP Photo/Militant video, File)

BEIRUT (AP) — The Islamic State group has released a new message purportedly from its reclusive leader, claiming his self-styled "caliphate" is doing "well" despite an unprecedented alliance against it. The assassination of a top Syrian rebel commander who led one of the most powerful groups battling President Bashar Assad's forces has dealt a significant setback to the opposition that could reshuffle the lineup of key players on the ground ahead of the planned peace talks in Geneva next month.

In the 24-minute audio posted Saturday, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi says airstrikes by the international coalition only increase his group's determination and resolve.

He also mocks a recently announced Saudi-led Islamic alliance against "terrorism" and warns Israel that "we are getting closer to you" every day.

To Israeli Jews, he says that they "will hide behind trees and stones" from the IS.

Al-Baghdadi urges Muslims world over to join the fight, saying it is their Islamic duty to rise up everywhere.

The authenticity of the audio could not be independently confirmed but it was posted on IS-affiliated websites and Twitter as past IS messages. 


On Saturday, the Army of Islam and allied militant groups in Syria mourned the killing of Zahran Alloush, while government supporters and the Islamic State group cheered his death — a reflection of his role in fighting both sides in the Syrian civil war.

Allouch was killed in airstrikes that targeted the group's headquarters during a meeting on Friday. He was instantly killed along with a number of senior commanders of his Army of Islam group and those of the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham and the Faylaq al-Rahman groups.

The Syrian army claimed responsibility for the airstrike that killed Allouch, although many among the opposition blamed Russia, which has been bombing IS targets and other insurgent groups since late September.

Allouch was a controversial figure in the war and an authoritative rebel leader who commanded thousands of fighters on the doorstep of Damascus, the seat of Assad's power. His death may have contributed — at least partially — to a delay in an agreed-on pullout of thousands of militants and their families from neighborhoods on the southern edge of Damascus.

The pullout, supposed to start on Saturday, was to involve mainly militants from the Islamic State group who earlier this year overran the Yarmouk area, which is home to a Palestinian refugee camp and has been hotly contested and fought-over in the war, and two adjacent neighborhoods.

A Palestinian official in Damascus, Anwar Abdulhadi, told The Associated Press that the withdrawal is being delayed for "logistical reasons." But Lebanon's Hezbollah-run TV station Al Manar said that Allouch was a key figure in arranging the rare deal, and that his assassination has delayed its implementation. The report could not be immediately confirmed.

Allouch's killing — a month before peace talks are scheduled to begin between the Syrian government and opposition rebel groups — is a blow to insurgents fighting to topple Assad and a boost to government forces who have been bolstered by the Russian military intervention in Syria.

The Army of Islam took part earlier this month in an opposition meeting held in Saudi Arabia during which it agreed to take part in political talks seeking to end the five-year-old conflict scheduled for late January in Geneva. The Syrian government describes the group as "terrorists" and has said it will not negotiate with such factions.

The U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said Saturday that he has set a Jan. 25 target date for the talks in Geneva and said developments on the ground "should not be allowed to derail it."

Anas al-Abdeh, a senior member of the main Western- backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, said the assassination "makes a mockery of all talk of a political settlement" and undermines the "negotiations before they begin."

Several opposition groups also mourned Allouch's death and accused the government and its allies of trying to eliminate rival groups ahead of the talks. Several rebel leaders have been killed since Russia's aerial campaign started on Sept. 30 in support of ally Assad, although Moscow has insisted that it is concentrating its attacks on Islamic State.

"Rebel groups should realize they are facing a war of extermination by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's regime," said Labib Nahhas, a senior member of the militant rebel Ahrar al-Sham group.

Abu Hassan al-Muhajer, another senior member of Ahrar al-Sham, wrote on Twitter that the "next stage will witness the liquidation of those leaders who began the uprising" against Assad. Other insurgents, including the al-Qaida branch inSyria, the Nusra Front, also lamented the killing.

The Army of Islam swiftly appointed Essam al-Buwaydhani, a field commander known as Abu Hammam, as Allouch's successor. In a video posted on the Internet late Friday, the group said Allouch's killing "will only increase our fight" against Assad's government and the Islamic State.

However, Aron Lund, a Syria expert, said the death of Allouch, who led the Army of Islam since it was founded around four years ago, could amount to "a decapitation strike" for the group.

"Add to that the fact that the Islam Army's dominance has created so much resentment among other factions over the years, and the situation seems very unstable," Lund wrote in an analysis for the popular Syria Comment blog.

A former Islamist prisoner who was released in a general amnesty after the uprising against Assad began in March 2011,

Allouch, who is in his mid-40s, joined the armed opposition and formed the Army of Islam — which soon became one of the most organized rebel factions in Syria, based in the Damascus suburb known as Eastern Ghouta.

He reflected the difficulties in identifying moderate rebels from extremists and other militants in Syria. He was widely known to be supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey but also fought pitched battles against rival Islamic State group near Damascus, with many crediting his group for keeping IS from making further advances toward the Syrian capital.

But critics accused him of sectarian politics and brutal tactics similar to that of the Islamic State group.

He is blamed by other opposition groups for the December 2013 disappearance of four prominent activists, including human rights activist and lawyer Razan Zaytouni. He has denied holding them, although they were abducted from an area under the control of the Army of Islam.

Government supporters also celebrated his death, blaming his group for regularly shelling residential areas in Damascus.

Earlier this year, after government airstrikes on the suburbs of Damascus killed dozens, Allouch's fighters forced some Alawites whom his group was holding into cages that were then displayed in public areas and markets, using them as human shields to try to prevent further airstrikes. Alawites are a Shiite offshoot to which Assad's family also belongs.

The large metal cages with men and women inside were then put on pick-up trucks that drove around Damascus suburbs.

Though delayed, the agreed-on evacuation of insurgents and their families from several neighborhoods of southern Damascus could further bolster Assad's hold over the capital — if it goes through.

The pullout, which was supposed to start on Saturday, was to involve mainly Islamic State militants who were holed up near the capital.

Alloush's death leaves so much up in the air, Lund wrote, especially in the Damascus suburbs of Ghouta.

"If it leads to instability and infighting among the rebels, or weakens command and control in the Ghouta, we could start to see a shift in the balance of power in the Syrian capital over the coming months," he said.

___
Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.

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