Truck attacker charged
Federal prosecutors brought terrorism charges Wednesday against the Uzbek immigrant accused in the truck rampage that left eight people dead near the World Trade Center memorial, saying he carried out the attack in response to the Islamic State group's online calls to action and picked Halloween because he knew more people would be out. The charges against Sayfullo Saipov, 29, could bring the death penalty. While recovering from police fire, Saipov asked to display the ISIS flag in his hospital room and said "he felt good about what he had done," prosecutors said in court papers. The federal charges in civilian court contradicted calls from President Donald Trump to try Saipov in military court at Guantánamo Bay. No one arrested on U.S. soil has ever been sent there, and no one captured on foreign soil has been sent since 2008. Trump denounced the U.S. criminal justice system as "a laughingstock." Those killed were: Nicholas Cleves, 23, of Downtown Manhattan; Darren Drake, 32, of New Milford, N.J.; Anne Laure Decadt, 31, of Belgium; and five Argentine tourists, Hernán Mendoza, 47; Diego Angelini, 47; Alejandro Pagnucco, 47; Ariel Erlij, 48; and Hernán Ferruchi, 47.
NYC to end 91-year-old ban on dancing in bars
Cut loose! New York City lawmakers voted Tuesday to legalize dancing in bars, repealing a 91-year-old law that banned boogieing at most city nightspots. The anti-dancing law started in 1926 and prohibited dancing in bars and restaurants that don't have a cabaret license. Fewer than 100 of 25,000 such establishments have the license, which requires approval from multiple city agencies. Critics said the so-called cabaret law originated as a racist attempt to police Harlem's 1920s jazz clubs — preventing shows from Billie Holiday and Ray Charles and drawing protest from Frank Sinatra — and continued to be enforced unfairly. "If you're Latino, if you're black, if you're from the LGBTQ community, you all have been impacted by this law," said city councilman Rafael Espinal, a Brooklyn Democrat, who introduced the repeal. "It is time we right this historical wrong." The repeal will go into effect 30 days after Mayor Bill de Blasio signs it. Footloose no more.
Lawmakers release trove of Russia-linked Facebook ads
Lawmakers on Wednesday released a trove of Facebook ads linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the American political process and whip up tensions around sensitive social issues, such as Islam, race and gun control. The ads were released as representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter faced criticism on Capitol Hill about why they hadn't done more to combat Russian interference. The few dozen ads — of roughly 3,000 Russian-connected ones that Facebook has identified and turned over to Congress — underscore how foreign agents sought to sow discord among Americans online. The Russian use of social media was part of a broad-scale effort to sway the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, according to U.S. intelligence services. Many of the ads disclosed Wednesday appear aimed at creating confusion and anger. One featured Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's head on a demon's body and fist-fighting Jesus. The post urged users to "'like' if you want Jesus to win!"
Hurricane death toll rises to 54
Authorities in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico say the number of deaths tied to Hurricane Maria has increased to 54 with three new deaths reported. Public Affairs Secretary Ramon Rosario said Wednesday two of the deaths were accidents involving trees and the third was a person who died by suicide after losing their job. The deaths occurred in the municipalities of Vega Baja, San Sebastian and San Lorenzo. It's unlikely a true toll will be known, as BuzzFeed and other media have reported Puerto Rico is cremating its dead. The government told BuzzFeed over 900 people have been cremated after "natural deaths." Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm. It wiped out crops, damaged or destroyed 230,000 homes and left the entire island without power. Puerto Rico's power company is producing nearly 40 percent of its normal output, and roughly 20 percent of customers are still without water.
Navy: Collisions that killed 17 sailors were avoidable
Two collisions between Navy destroyers and commercial vessels in the Western Pacific this year were avoidable and the result of a string of poor judgment, lack of planning and crew and basic navigational errors, the Navy's top officer said in reports made public Wednesday. In two harrowing reports that told of missed warnings, errors and frantic U.S. sailors fighting to save their shipmates, the Navy determined both fatal collisions could have been prevented. Seven sailors were killed in June when the destroyer Fitzgerald collided with a container ship near Japan. The collision in August of the destroyer John S. McCain and an oil tanker while approaching Singapore left 10 sailors dead.
Baby gene therapy study offers hope for fatal muscle disease
A first attempt at gene therapy for a disease that leaves babies unable to move, swallow and breathe has extended the tots' lives. Some began to roll over, sit and stand on their own, researchers reported Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Only 15 babies with spinal muscular atrophy received the experimental gene therapy, but researchers credited the early results to replacing the infants' defective gene soon after birth. Lead researcher Dr. Jerry Mendell of Nationwide Children's Hospital cautioned more study is needed to prove the gene therapy works safely. — tbt* wires