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Briefs

Thousands of military sex victims treated

– New government figures underscore the staggering long-term consequences of military sexual assaults: More than 85,000 veterans were treated last year for injuries or illness linked to the abuse, and 4,000 sought disability benefits.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ accounting, released in response to inquiries from The Associated Press, shows a heavy financial and emotional cost that affects several generations of veterans and lasts long after a victim leaves the service. Sexual assault or repeated sexual harassment can trigger a variety of health problems, primarily post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

While women are more likely to be victims, men made up nearly 40 percent of the patients the VA treated for conditions connected to what it calls “military sexual trauma.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said reducing the incidence of sexual assaults in the military is a top priority.

Nation

Biometric entry-exit system favored

Foreigners leaving the country through any of the nation’s 30 busiest airports would undergo mandatory fingerprinting under an amendment senators added Monday to a sweeping immigration bill.

Lawmakers called it a step toward a more expansive biometric system that would use identifiers such as fingerprints to keep track of immigrants and visitors exiting the U.S.

Currently no such system is in place, something viewed as a security weakness, particularly because some 40 percent of the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally overstayed their visas and there’s no good system for tracking them.

A full-fledged biometric entry-exit system is favored by many senators but was deemed too expensive and unworkable to include in the bill. Current law already requires such a system to be in place, but the Department of Homeland Security has not implemented it. Instead the bill seeks electronic scanning of photo IDs.

Police: In-law got rid of Powell’s body

For the first time, Utah police said they believe Susan Powell’s brother-in-law was “heavily involved” in getting rid of her body.

West Valley police said the focus had shifted toward Michael C. Powell after Josh Powell killed the couple’s two boys and himself in a deliberately set house fire 15 months ago.

Police held a news conference Monday to say they are closing the active investigation of Susan Powell’s disappearance, citing a lack of leads. They released the case file, which includes details that have been kept under wraps since Powell vanished in 2009.

Michael C. Powell killed himself Feb. 11 by jumping from a parking garage in Minneapolis.

World

At least 95 people killed in Iraq attacks

Iraq’s wave of bloodshed sharply escalated Monday with more than a dozen car bombings across the country, part of attacks that killed at least 95 people and brought echoes of past sectarian carnage and fears of a dangerous spillover from Syria’s civil war next door.

The latest spiral of violence – which has claimed more than 240 lives in the past week – carries the hallmarks of the two sides that brought nearly nonstop chaos to Iraq for years: Sunni insurgents, including al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq, and Shiite militias defending their newfound power after Saddam Hussein’s fall.

But the widening shadow and regional brinksmanship from Syria’s conflict now increasingly threaten to feed into Iraq’s sectarian strife.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah was pulled more deeply into Syria’s civil war as 28 guerrillas from the Lebanese Shiite militant group were killed and dozens more wounded while fighting rebels, Syria activists said Monday.

The intense battle drove rebels from large parts of the town of Qusair, part of a withering government offensive aimed at securing a strategic land corridor from Damascus to the Mediterranean coast.

Hezbollah-affiliated hospitals in Lebanon urged blood donations through mosque loudspeakers and ambulances raced along the Damascus road in a stark indication of the group’s increasingly prominent role in Syria.

The overt Hezbollah involvement edges the war further into a regional sectarian conflict pitting the Middle East’s Iranian-backed Shiite axis against Sunnis.

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