Egypt to open Rafah border
CAIRO, Egypt — Egypt’s official news agency says the Rafah border crossing with Gaza will be permanently opened for Palestinians on Saturday — a move that will significantly ease a blockade of the impoverished territory.
MENA said Wednesday that Egypt’s new military rulers set the date for the opening of the crossing as part of efforts “to end the status of the Palestinian division and achieve national reconciliation.”
The decision is a sharp departure from the policies of ex-President Hosni Mubarak, who had restricted the movement of people and goods through Rafah in keeping with a blockade it imposed on Gaza along with Israel after Hamas seized control of the strip in 2007.
Blagojevich attorneys ready to mount defence
CHICAGO — Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys were starting their defence of the former Illinois governor Wednesday in his retrial on corruption charges, and new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to be one of the witnesses.
U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, took the stand Wednesday. The defence said that Jackson would testify that he never offered or directed anyone to offer campaign contributions for the Senate seat being vacated by President Barack Obama.
The 54-year-old former governor faces 20 charges at his retrial, among them that he sought to sell or trade Obama’s old seat for campaign cash or a top job. Blagojevich also is accused of attempting to shake down Emanuel’s Hollywood agent brother to raise political contributions for the governor. Blagojevich denies any wrongdoing.
Feds complete Edwards probe
RALEIGH, N.C. — A person familiar with a federal investigation into John Edwards’ political dealings says prosecutors have completed their probe of the two-time Democratic presidential candidate and could indict him within days.
The person also told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Edwards could strike a plea deal. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the case’s sensitivity.
The U.S. attorney in Raleigh declined to comment.
Loughner not fit to stand trial: judge
TUCSON — The man accused of wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a deadly rampage lowered his head to within inches of the courtroom table Wednesday. When he lifted it, he began yelling, angry and loud.
Federal marshals had to drag Jared Lee Loughner out of the packed federal courtroom. Minutes later, he was in a nearby room and, over a closed-circuit TV, could watch as U.S. District Judge Larry Burns declared him incompetent to stand trial.
Mental health experts concluded that the 22-year-old college dropout suffers from schizophrenia.
Burns ordered Loughner to a federal facility in Missouri for up to four months, where doctors will try to give him enough treatment to bring him to a point where he understands the case against him.
“You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to know that the boy is disturbed,” said Eric Fuller, who was shot in the knee and the back during the Jan. 8 shooting spree at a Giffords event outside a Tucson, Ariz., supermarket.
Fuller said he wouldn’t be bothered if Loughner spends the rest of his life in a mental health facility.
“Hinckley has been gone for forever,” Fuller said, referring to John Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan 30 years ago.
and has since been committed to a psychiatric hospital.
Loughner spent five weeks in March and April at the federal facility in Springfield, Mo., where he was examined by psychologist Christina Pietz and psychiatrist Matthew Carroll. The two were asked to determine if Loughner understands the consequences of the case.
Burns viewed 18 hours of the experts’ videotaped interviews with Loughner. He said the experts’ reports and videos were confidential, but he summarized their findings at the hearing.
The judge said Carroll concluded Loughner’s mental health has declined in the past two or three years and his thinking on legal issues is confused. Carroll believes Loughner doesn’t grasp the gravity of the charges and is instead fixated on inconsequential issues.