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Nation and World briefs for November 17

Senator’s bribery trial ends with hung jury

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The federal bribery trial of Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez ended Thursday with the jury hopelessly deadlocked on all charges, a partial victory for him that could nevertheless leave the case hanging over his head as he gears up for re-election to a sharply divided Senate.

U.S. District Judge William Walls declared a mistrial after more than six full days of deliberations failed to produce a verdict on any of the 18 counts against the New Jersey politician or his co-defendant, a wealthy Florida eye doctor accused of buying Menendez’s influence by plying him with luxury vacations and campaign contributions.

Prosecutors would not say whether they plan to retry Menendez. But on the political front, forces were already mobilizing against him, with GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately calling for an ethics investigation of him.

Outside the courthouse, a choked-up Menendez fought back tears as he blasted federal authorities for bringing the case and thanked the jurors in the 2½-month trial “who saw through the government’s false claims and used their Jersey common sense to reject it.”

“Certain elements of the FBI and of our state cannot stand, or even worse, accept that the Latino kid from Union City and Hudson County could grow up to be a United States senator and be honest,” said the 63-year-old son of Cuban immigrants.

California rampage puts spotlight on homemade ‘ghost guns’

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The gunman who killed his wife and four others in a rampage in Northern California this week found an easy way around a court order prohibiting him from having guns: He built his own at home.

Kevin Neal, 44, was armed with what authorities believe were two high-powered rifles that he made himself when he opened fire Tuesday on homes, cars and an elementary school around his tiny hometown of Rancho Tehama Reserve. A deputy finally shot and killed him.

It is the latest case of homemade semi-automatic weapons being used in a crime, and it comes as federal authorities try to draw attention to the dangers posed by these “ghost guns,” which contain no registration numbers that can be used to trace them. In Baltimore, a man used a homemade AR-15-style rifle to shoot at four police officers in July 2016. They returned fire, killing him.

It’s legal to build a gun in a home or a workshop, and advances in 3-D printing and milling have made it easier to do so. Kits can be purchased legally for $450 to $1,000 from hundreds of websites without the kind of background check required for traditional gun purchases.

“The more restrictive the laws become for people to purchase firearms, we’re going to see those criminal elements build their own,” Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said. “That’s what they do.”

Regional summit expected to formalize terms of Mugabe exit

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — In the first round of negotiations over how President Robert Mugabe will leave power, the Zimbabwean leader met Thursday with the army commander who put him under house arrest and mediators, including South African Cabinet ministers and a Catholic priest.

Meanwhile, an emergency summit of heads of state of regional countries was called by the 16-nation Southern African Development Community and is expected to formalize the terms of Mugabe’s exit.

The summit puts regional leaders who have worked with the 93-year-old Mugabe for decades into the difficult position of either supporting what appears to be a coup or keeping the unpopular president, the world’s oldest head of state, in office.

In the first images of Mugabe after the military moved in earlier this week, Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper published photos of him smiling and shaking hands with army commander Constantino Chiwenga. The photos also showed South African Cabinet ministers and a Catholic priest whom Mugabe has used as a mediator before.

First lady Grace Mugabe was not pictured, however, amid speculation over the future of a woman whose rapid political rise had alarmed many who feared she could succeed her husband after he fired his longtime deputy last week.

 

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