Nation & World Briefs 01-15-14 Teen face three murder counts in Indiana blaze

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NEW ALBANY, Ind. -- An Indiana house fire where three young siblings died and a fourth was badly burned began when a teenager fired a flare into the home in a property dispute with one of the residents, authorities said Tuesday.

Cody Cashion, 18, faces three counts of murder and one count of arson resulting in injury, Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson announced Tuesday at a news conference. The charges are in connection to the fire that occurred Jan. 4 in New Albany, located in southern Indiana across the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky.

Cashion, of New Albany, already was in custody in nearby Clark County on charges including attempted murder of a police officer stemming from a Jan. 8 car crash. He remained at the Clark County Jail in Jeffersonville on Tuesday, and records there did not indicate whether he has an attorney.

Investigators initially believed the fire started in a front bedroom and might have been caused by a space heater, but Henderson said witnesses provided information linking the fire to a flare shot from a motor vehicle.

Henderson said during the news conference that Cashion fired the flare into the home as "retaliation" for a property dispute, and that his intended target was not there at the time.

Mass. DA says chest was recalled: A hope chest where a young Massachusetts brother and sister died after apparently becoming trapped had been recalled by the manufacturer years ago, District Attorney Michael Morrissey investigating the case said Tuesday, calling the deaths "a tragic accident." Morrissey said preliminary autopsy results indicate the deaths of the 8-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy at their Franklin home on Sunday were accidental. He said toxicology tests are still pending. Morrissey said the chest, which had a lid that could only be opened from the outside, was made in 1939 by the Lane Furniture Company of Altavista, Va. Morrissey said people who own similar chests, which also were made by other companies, should check them.

Maps pathway into foreign computers: The New York Times is reporting that the National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the U.S. to conduct surveillance on those machines. The Times cited NSA documents, computer experts and U.S. officials in its report about the use of secret technology using radio waves to gain access to computers that other countries have tried to protect from spying or cyberattacks. The NSA called the effort an "active defense" and has used the technology to monitor units of the Chinese Army, the Russian military, drug cartels, trade institutions inside the European Union, and sometime U.S. partners against terrorism like Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan. The NSA said the technology has not been used in computers in the U.S.

Gets another extension: Health insurance companies can no longer turn away people with medical problems, but the Obama administration isn't taking any chances with thousands of vulnerable patients in a special federal program. The administration announced Tuesday it is granting a two-month extension for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. The temporary program was supposed to disappear Jan. 1, when guaranteed coverage for people with medical problems became the law of the land. It's the second time the program has been extended. Technical problems with HealthCare.gov previously forced a one-month extension through Jan. 31.

To nominate Calif. businesswoman: President Barack Obama intends to nominate Maria Contreras-Sweet, the founder of a Latino-owned community bank in Los Angeles and a former California cabinet secretary, to be head of the Small Business Administration, according to a White House official. Obama will announce Contreras-Sweet's selection at an event Wednesday, the official said. The official was not authorized to discuss the nomination by name ahead of the announcement. Contreras-Sweet, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, has a history of working with small businesses and has been an advocate for Hispanics. As California's secretary of the state's Business, Transportation and Housing Agency from 1999-2003, she was the first Latina to serve as a cabinet secretary in the state and oversaw 40,000 state employees and a $12 billion budget.

Durango added to fire probe: U.S. safety regulators are adding the Dodge Durango to an investigation of ceiling fires in Jeep Grand Cherokees. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the probe now covers more than 593,000 SUVs from the 2011 through 2013 model years. The agency said an analysis of Chrysler data showed 52 possible fires and three injuries. Customers reported minor overheating or flames. Investigators are focusing on an electrical short. The Durango was added because it has the same ceiling and visors as the Grand Cherokee.

French president indignant: French President Francois Hollande conceded Tuesday that he is going through "painful moments" with his companion, who was hospitalized after a magazine reported that he is secretly having an affair with a movie actress. But the Socialist Hollande, who has some of the lowest approval ratings of a French leader, sidestepped specifics about his personal life and tried to devote his annual presidential news conference to his plan for reviving France's struggling economy. Hollande's partner, journalist Valerie Trierweiler, has been hospitalized since Friday, when the tabloid-style magazine Closer published photos it said proved Hollande's liaison with actress Julie Gayet around the corner from the presidential Elysee Palace.

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