Nation and World briefs for December 31

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Cosby charged with a sex crime dating to 2004

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Cosby charged with a sex crime dating to 2004

ELKINS PARK, Pa. (AP) — Bill Cosby was arrested in the twilight of his life and career Wednesday and charged with a decade-old sex crime after a barrage of accusations from dozens of women made a mockery of his image as TV’s wise and understanding Dr. Cliff Huxtable.

Holding a cane, the 78-year-old comedian walked slowly and unsteadily into court on the arms of his lawyers to answer charges he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman less than half his age at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He had no comment as he was released on $1 million bail.

The case marks the first time Cosby has been charged with sexual misconduct despite years of lurid allegations and sets the stage for perhaps the biggest Hollywood celebrity trial of the mobile-news era.

“Make no mistake: We intend to mount a vigorous defense against this unjustified charge, and we expect that Mr. Cosby will be exonerated by a court of law,” his attorney Monique Pressley said in a statement.

The decision to prosecute came just days before Pennsylvania’s 12-year statute of limitations for bringing charges was set to run out. It represents an about-face by the district attorney’s office, which under a previous DA declined to charge Cosby in 2005 when the woman first told police that the comic put his hands down her pants.

Turks, Belgians report foiling plans for holiday attacks

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — With less than 48 hours left in 2015, Turkey on Wednesday became the latest country to announce the foiling of a holiday attack plot, detaining two suspected Islamic State militants believed to be planning suicide bombings during New Year celebrations in the capital city’s heart.

“They were caught before they had the opportunity to take action,” said the office of the chief prosecutor of Ankara, Turkey’s capital.

The men were detained in a raid on a house in the low-income Mamak neighborhood, where police seized a suicide vest armed with a bomb, a second explosive device that was fortified with ball bearings and metal sticks and concealed inside a back pack, as well as bomb-making equipment, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The two men, Turkish nationals identified only by their initials M.C. and A.Y., were being questioned by anti-terrorism police. The prosecutor’s office said the men had staked out possible locations in Ankara where they could carry out the attacks.

The state-run Anadolu Agency, quoting unnamed police and judiciary officials, said the would-be bombers had intended to blow themselves up during holiday festivities at bars and a shopping mall in the central Kizilay district.

Several levees monitored in Missouri; death toll rises to 20

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A rare winter flood threatened nearly two dozen federal levees in Missouri and Illinois on Wednesday as rivers rose, prompting evacuations in several places.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has deemed 19 levees highly vulnerable to flooding; by midday, those levees, all under close scrutiny, were holding up.

But people were moving out just in case, including the St. Louis suburb of Valley Park, where Mayor Michael Pennise ordered mandatory evacuations for 350 to 400 homes and dozens of businesses in the section of town near the fast-rising Meramec River.

Swollen rivers and streams have been pushed to heights not seen since the massive 1993 floods in some places. At least 20 deaths over several days in Missouri and Illinois were blamed on flooding, mostly involving vehicles that drove onto swamped roadways, and at least two people were still missing Wednesday.

And search teams went out for a third day in hopes of finding a country music singer from Arkansas who disappeared while duck hunting in a flooded area in northern Oklahoma. The floodwaters there also destroyed a leftover film set used in the 2003 remake of “Where the Red Fern Grows.”

Apple agrees to pay $350 million in Italian tax case

ROME (AP) — Apple has agreed to pay Italy 318 million euros (about $350 million) in taxes for several past years, prosecutors said Wednesday, part of a broader European effort to make multinationals pay what they owe in each country where they do business.

Italy has already brought several cases against global technology companies that have headquarters in low-tax nations like Ireland to avoid paying higher taxes in other countries, like Italy. The practice, called profit-shifting, has come under attack from the European Union, which wants multinationals to pay tax where they earn their revenue, and not where they have their regional base.

The EU’s 28 states agreed in October to share details of tax deals they reach with big companies to make sure they are fair to other countries. The EU has already ordered Starbucks and Fiat to pay millions in back taxes to Luxembourg and the Netherlands, respectively.

Milan prosecutors on Wednesday confirmed a report in daily La Repubblica that Apple agreed to pay the sum for the years spanning 2008-2013. The prosecutors said Apple’s tax liabilities for the five successive years will hinge on an international ruling on such cases. They declined to give details.

They also declined to discuss how payment of back taxes might affect a criminal probe, conducted by the prosecutors, into suspected tax evasion by three Apple employees. La Repubblica said two of the employees are executives based in Italy while the third is based in Ireland.

Banned driver dies after crashing into Secret Service car

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — An unlicensed driver trying to pass a car on a snowy New Hampshire road died after crashing head-on into a car carrying four Secret Service agents on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s protective detail, police said Wednesday.

The crash happened shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday in Wakefield, near the Maine state line.

The agents were in a Ford Taurus heading south on Route 16, Wakefield police said. A northbound Mercury Sable with three people inside crossed over a double yellow solid line and hit the agents’ Taurus, police said.

The Sable driver, 45-year-old Bruce Danforth, of Ossipee, died. Police said an autopsy was performed on him, and they were awaiting blood-analysis results, which would take weeks. Court records show Danforth had been charged seven times since 2010 with driving while his license was revoked or suspended, including two occasions when he was also charged with drug-related offenses. He had pleaded guilty to — or been found guilty of — the charges, was fined hundreds of dollars and spent some time in county jail. After his most recent arrest, on Jan. 4 of this year, Danforth was ordered to pay $620. At the time of Tuesday’s crash, the fine was unpaid and a hearing had been scheduled to consider a contempt charge.

A Secret Service spokeswoman said the agents had serious injuries that weren’t life-threatening. Their names weren’t released.

US officials: ‘Affluenza’ teen likely won’t be deported soon

HOUSTON (AP) — The Texas teenager known for using an “affluenza” defense in a fatal drunken-driving accident likely won’t return to the U.S. anytime soon because of a Mexican judge’s decision to delay his deportation, U.S. law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

Richard Hunter, chief deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service in South Texas, said during a news conference in Houston that a three-day injunction granted to Ethan Couch will likely take at least two weeks to resolve. Authorities believe the 18-year-old, who was sentenced only to probation for the 2013 wreck in Texas, fled to Mexico with his mother as prosecutors investigated whether he’d violated probation.

Hunter said Couch’s mother, Tonya Couch, also won’t be deported as originally planned Wednesday evening, though he didn’t say whether she also had been granted a court delay.

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The Couches were taken into custody Monday after authorities said a phone call for pizza led to their capture in the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta. They were being held by immigration officials in Guadalajara.

The ruling earlier Wednesday by the Mexican court could lead to a weeks-long legal process if a judge decides Couch has grounds to challenge his deportation based on arguments that kicking him out of the country would violate his rights. The judge has three days to consider Couch’s appeal.