Nation and World briefs for December 27

Embattled Netanyahu declares victory in primary

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared victory early Friday in his primary election battle for leadership of the Likud party, as TV stations predicted a landslide win for the longtime Israeli leader.

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The apparent victory means that Netanyahu will lead Likud into March elections, the country’s third election in less than a year. He is also likely to seize on the victory as he battles criminal corruption charges.

“A giant victory,” Netanyahu tweeted, just over an hour after polls closed.

“Thanks to the members of Likud for the trust, support and love,” he said. “God willing, I will lead Likud to a big victory in the coming elections.”

Partial results reported by Israeli TV stations showed Netanyahu capturing between 70% and 80% of the vote, trouncing his challenger, lawmaker Gideon Saar.

California jails use kinder approach to solitary confinement

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — An inmate in solitary confinement at a California jail was refusing to leave his cell. The jailers’ usual response: Send an “extraction team” of corrections officers to burst into the cell and drag him out.

But not in Contra Costa County, one of three in the state using a kinder, gentler approach in response to inmate lawsuits, a policy change that experts say could be a national model for reducing the use of isolation cells.

So the inmate was asked: “What if we gave you a couple extra cookies and another sandwich? Would you move?” recalled Don Specter, the nonprofit Prison Law Office director who negotiated the new policies. “He said yes. … They were like, ‘Wow.’”

More than a quarter of U.S. states and numerous smaller jurisdictions are looking for ways to reduce the use of solitary confinement, according to the Vera Institute of Justice, which encourages alternatives to a practice behavioral experts say is dehumanizing and can worsen mental illness.

The new policies in California came after Specter’s firm sued seven of California’s 58 counties, alleging that conditions had grown inhumane as jails absorbed inmates who previously would have served their sentences in state prisons. The state in 2011 began sending less serious offenders to local jails for years at a time to ease crowding in state penitentiaries.

Iraq president offers to quit after rejecting PM nominee

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s president refused on Thursday to designate a prime minister candidate nominated by the Iran-backed parliamentary bloc and offered to resign, plunging the country into further political uncertainty amid nearly three months of unprecedented mass protests.

President Barham Salih said in a statement issued by his office that he would not name the governor of the southern Basra province, Asaad al-Eidani, as the country’s next prime minister “to avoid more bloodshed and in order to safeguard civil peace.”

Al-Eidani’s name was proposed Wednesday by the Fatah bloc, which includes leaders associated with the Iran-supported paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces. His nomination was promptly rejected by Iraqi protesters, who poured into the streets Wednesday demanding an independent candidate.

Salih said he was prepared to submit his resignation to Parliament, as his refusal to designate al-Eidani could be construed as a violation of the constitution. He stopped short of actually stepping down, however, saying in a statement addressed to the Parliament speaker that he would leave it up to lawmakers to decide “as they see fit.” Shortly after issuing the statement, the president left Baghdad for his hometown in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah.

Under the constitution, parliament has seven days to accept or reject a president’s resignation before it automatically goes into effect. It was unclear how lawmakers would react, as Salih did not officially resign.

Police release teen suspect in Barnard student’s killing

NEW YORK — A 14-year-old boy suspected of fatally stabbing a Barnard College freshman was released from police custody on Thursday, mere hours after New York City police said he had been located following a two-week manhunt.

Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison tweeted that finding the suspect “was a significant development in the investigative process,” but that the youth had since been released to the custody of his lawyers. Harrison didn’t say why the boy was released.

A police spokesman declined to provide details, saying “the investigation remains active and ongoing.”

A spokesman for Neighborhood Defender Service confirmed that the organization is providing the boy with legal representation but declined to comment further.

The 14-year-old is one of three youths police believe were involved in the stabbing of 18-year-old Tessa Majors as she walked through Manhattan’s Morningside Park on Dec. 11.

Daycare owner arrested after 26 kids found behind false wall

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A Colorado woman accused of hiding 26 children behind a false wall at her daycare center was arrested for investigation of misdemeanor child abuse, police said Thursday.

Carla Faith, 58, was arrested Monday in Colorado Springs on suspicion of two counts of reckless child abuse without injury and a single count of trying to influence a public servant, the El Paso County court records show.

Three employees — Katelynne Nelson, 31, Christina Swauger, 35, and Valerie Fresquez, 24 — were arrested on related charges.

Faith was arrested after a six-week investigation by the city police department’s Crimes Against Children Unit, Lt. James Sokolik said in a statement. She posted $3,000 bond Wednesday. Her next court appearance was set for Jan. 2.

Police went to the Play Mountain Place site on Nov. 13 after receiving complaints that the business was housing more children than its license allowed.

Massive redwood tree falls, kills hiker in California park

MUIR WOODS NATIONAL MONUMENT PARK, Calif. — A huge redwood tree fell and killed a man visiting Muir Woods National Monument Park in California on Christmas Eve, authorities said Thursday.

Subhradeep Dutta, 28, of Edina, Minnesota, died while walking on a marked dirt trail with two other people in the park north of San Francisco famous for its towering trees, according to the Marin County coroner’s office and a spokesman for the park.

Dutta was pinned by the trunk of the 200-foot-tall (61-meter-tall) tree and died at the scene. The trunk measured more than 4 feet (1 meter) in diameter.

A woman injured by falling debris was taken to the hospital. A man hiking with the group escaped injury.

The tree fell following a series of winter storms over the past two weeks.

Los Angeles prosecutors reviewing 8 cases against Weinstein

LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors in Los Angeles are reviewing eight cases accusing disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, an official said Thursday.

The Los Angeles and Beverly Hills police departments each brought four investigations to prosecutors, according to Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

The office will decide whether to move forward with prosecution. No charges have been filed, Santiago said. He did not know details about the allegations or when the cases were presented to prosecutors.

Juda Engelmayer, Weinstein’s publicist, said he had “nothing to add right now” in an email to The Associated Press.

District Attorney Jackie Lacey created a task force more than two years ago to handle the surge in sexual misconduct allegations against entertainment figures after the accusations against Weinstein launched the #MeToo movement. He has denied allegations of nonconsensual sex.

Slave cemetery poses questions for Florida country club

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The rumors swirled for decades: A dark history long lay buried under the grassy knolls and manicured lawns of a country club in Florida’s capital city.

Over the years, neat rows of rectangular depressions along the 7th fairway deepened in the grass, outlining what would be confirmed this month as sunken graves of the slaves who lived and died on a plantation that once sprawled with cotton near the Florida Capitol.

The discovery of 40 graves — with perhaps dozens more yet to be found — has spawned discussion about how to honor those who lie in rest at the golf course. And it has brought renewed attention to the many thousands of unmarked and forgotten slave cemeteries across the Deep South that forever could be lost to development or indifference.

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“When I stand here on a cemetery for slaves, it makes me thoughtful and pensive,” said Delaitre Hollinger, the immediate past president of the Tallahassee branch of the NAACP. His ancestors worked the fields of Leon County as slaves.

“They deserve much better than this,” said Hollinger, 26, who is leading a push to memorialize the rediscovered burial ground. “And they deserved much better than what occurred in that era.”

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