Nation & World Briefs 04-05-13 Mexico breaks up a plot to kill pair of congressmen


MEXICO CITY -- Mexican prosecutors said Thursday they have broken up a plot by an armed gang to assassinate two federal legislators in Mexico City.

The plan, had it succeeded, would have marked a rare attack on federal officials, who have largely escaped the drug-fueled violence that has claimed the lives of many state and local officials.

The intended victims are brothers, one a senator and one a congressman, from the north-central state of Zacatecas. Both Sen. David Monreal Avila and Congressman Ricardo Monreal Avila were warned and placed under protection once the plot was uncovered, based on intelligence information.

The armed gang was arrested Thursday at a hotel in downtown Mexico City, Assistant Attorney General Mariana Benitez told reporters. She did not specify how many were detained, what weapons they were carrying or whether they had any ties to drug gangs.

White supremacist gang member arrested: Authorities have arrested James Lohr, a member of a white supremacist gang linked to the killing Colorado's prisons chief, who was shot answering the door of his home last month. El Paso County sheriff's spokesman Jeff Kramer said Lohr was taken into custody early today. Lohr was wanted for questioning in the murder of Colorado corrections director Tom Clements. It's unclear if Lohr has been charged. Authorities believe the Lohr was in contact with gang associate Evan Ebel days before the murders of Clements and pizza delivery man Nate Leon. Police say they believe Ebel killed Leon and Clements before he was killed in a shootout in Texas. His motive in the killings isn't clear.

At least 45 dead in building collapse: A residential building being constructed illegally on forest land in a suburb of India's financial capital of Mumbai collapsed into a mound of steel and concrete, killing at least 45 people and injuring more than 50 others, authorities said today. The eight-story building in the suburb of Thane caved in Thursday evening, police said. Rescue workers with sledgehammers, gasoline-powered saws and hydraulic jacks struggled today to break through the tower of rubble in their search for possible survivors. Six bulldozers were brought to the scene. More than 20 people remained missing this afternoon and three floors of the building remained to be searched, said R.S. Rajesh, an official with the National Disaster Response Force who was at the scene.

General fired, appeals dismissal: Defense officials said an Army major general with the U.S. Africa Command has been relieved of his post in connection with alcohol and sexual misconduct charges. He has appealed the dismissal to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Officials say Maj. Gen. Ralph Baker, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, was fired from his command last Thursday by Gen. Carter Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command, after an administrative review. Baker took over the task force, based in Djibouti, last May. The allegations against Baker involve harassment and inappropriate contact. He has returned to Washington and is temporarily serving as a special assistant to the vice chief of the Army. Officials weren't authorized to talk publicly about the case so spoke on condition of anonymity.

To give back part of salaries: Three Cabinet secretaries became the latest senior administration officials to give back part of their salaries, in the spirit of government spending cuts. The announcements that Secretary of State John Kerry, the richest Cabinet member, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will voluntarily reduce their pay came a day after President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said they'd return 5 percent of their paychecks to the Treasury. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Kerry, however, will give his 5 percent to a charity for department employees. She said he already makes significant charitable donations.

GM to invest nearly $30M in plant: General Motors said it plans to invest nearly $30 million for the production of two new engines and other auto parts at its Bedford Castings plant in southern Indiana. GM said Thursday the Bedford plant will receive $19 million to produce components for a small gas engine and $10.4 million to produce components for a new 8-speed and existing 6-speed transmissions. The money is part of a $332 million investment GM plans to make at four plants in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. The money will finance production of new, small V-6 engines and more fuel efficient eight-speed transmissions. GM officials said the investment will help preserve 1,650 jobs at the plants.

Possible deal could cut sentence: A possible agreement that could reduce the prison sentence of former Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling for his role in the collapse of the once mighty energy giant is being discussed, according to the U.S. Justice Department. The possibility of a sentencing agreement in the case was made public this week in a notice to victims of Enron's collapse. The notice did not specify how Skilling's sentence could be affected if an agreement is reached. Skilling has been in prison since December 2006. He is currently serving his sentence in a low security facility outside of Denver. Michael Passman, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment.

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