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INDIA DIPLOMAT SAYS SHE FACED CAVITY SEARCH IN NYC

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 11:01 Published in National News

NEW DELHI (AP) — An Indian diplomat said U.S. authorities subjected her to a strip search, cavity search and DNA swabbing following her arrest on visa charges in New York City, despite her "incessant assertions of immunity."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the diplomat's treatment as "deplorable."

The case has sparked widespread outrage in India and infuriated the government, which revoked privileges for U.S. diplomats to protest her treatment. It has cast a pall over India-U.S. relations, which have cooled in recent years despite a 2008 nuclear deal that was hailed as a high point in the nations' ties.

Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York, was arrested Thursday outside of her daughter's Manhattan school on charges that she lied on a visa application about how much she paid her housekeeper, an Indian national.

Prosecutors say the maid received less than $3 per hour for her work.

In an email published in India media on Wednesday, Khobragade said she was treated like a common criminal.

"I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, in a holdup with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity," she wrote.

An Indian official with direct knowledge of the case confirmed to The Associated Press that the email was authentic. The official, who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the case, said India's priority now is to get the woman returned home.

"India's top demand right now is: Return our diplomat," he said, adding that Khobragade, who was released on $250,000 bail, would have to report to police in New York every week.

Khobragade was arrested by the U.S. Department of State's diplomatic security team and then handed over to U.S. marshals in New York.

The U.S. Marshals Service confirmed Tuesday that it had strip-searched Khobragade and placed her in a cell with other female defendants. It described the measures as "standard arrestee intake procedures."

The case has touched a nerve in India, where the fear of public humiliation resonates strongly and heavy-handed treatment by the police is normally reserved for the poor. For an educated, middle-class woman to face public arrest and a strip search is almost unimaginable, except in the most brutal crimes.

Prosecutors say Khobragade claimed on visa application documents she paid her Indian maid $4,500 per month, but that she actually paid her less than $3 per hour. Khobragade has pleaded not guilty and plans to challenge the arrest on grounds of diplomatic immunity.

Marie Harf, U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman, said Khobragade does not have full diplomatic immunity. Instead, she has consular immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts only with respect to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions.

If convicted, Khobragade faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making a false declaration.

The fallout from the case was growing. India retaliated against U.S. diplomats with measures that include revoking diplomat ID cards that brought certain privileges, demanding to know the salaries paid to Indian staff in U.S. Embassy households and withdrawing import licenses that allowed the commissary at the U.S. Embassy to import alcohol and food.

Police also removed the traffic barricades near the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi in retaliation for Khobragade's treatment. The barriers were a safety measure but India said they clogged up traffic.

On Wednesday, dozens of people protested outside the U.S. Embassy, saying Khobragade's treatment was an insult to all Indian women.

In New Delhi, the lower house of Parliament had to be temporarily adjourned Wednesday after lawmakers noisily demanded that it adopt a resolution against the United States.

Arun Jaitely, leader of the opposition in the upper house, said the government had to register its "strongest protest" to the U.S. government for the "lack of respect for India." He called for a review of India's relations with the United States, a demand that was vociferously seconded by many lawmakers.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said the arrest was a "matter of national outrage." He promised angry lawmakers that the government would make an official statement in Parliament on the incident.

Harf said Tuesday that federal authorities would work on the issue with India.

"We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India," she said. "Accordingly, we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure that all appropriate procedures were followed and every opportunity for courtesy was extended."

LUCKY LOTTO TICKETS SOLD IN ATLANTA, SAN JOSE

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 11:00 Published in National News

ATLANTA (AP) — Two lucky winning tickets were sold in Tuesday's near-record $636 million Mega Millions drawing: one at a tiny newsstand in Atlanta, and the other more than 2,000 miles away in California.

The lucky Georgia ticket was sold at a Gateway Newsstand in Atlanta's affluent Buckhead area, Mega Millions Executive Director Paula Otto said.

Newsstand owner Young Soolee grinned as she arrived Wednesday morning at the shop off the lobby of the Alliance Center office building. The newsstand — a small, long shop with one register that can hold perhaps 10 people at a time — is frequented by workers at the office building, which sits across the street from an upscale mall.

"I'm so excited and so happy now," Soolee said. "I love my store and the customer now."

Some media outlets reported that Soolee would receive money as the owner of the store that sold a winning ticket. But Georgia Lottery spokeswoman Tandi Reddick said Wednesday that's not the case. She said Soolee won't get any bonus beyond the 6 percent commission all retail outlets received based on lottery sales.

"They do have the distinction of being known as the lucky store now, and that's always great news for them," Reddick said.

The winner has 180 days to claim the prize, Reddick said. The clock began ticking Tuesday. Lottery officials in Georgia will release basic information about the winner, including name and city of residence. Like the policies for store owners receiving bonus money, the number of days and anonymity for the winner varies by state, Paula Otto, Mega Millions lead director, said in an email.

Buckhead is a financial center of Atlanta and one of its largest neighborhoods, a vast northern area known for upscale shopping centers such as Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza, both a short walk from the store that sold the winning ticket. The Alliance Center is home to a variety of offices — lawyers and financial services professionals, even the Brazilian Consulate General.

The California ticket was sold at Jennifer's Gift Shop, which sits along San Jose's tree-lined Tully Road, amid a cluster of Asian restaurants. The store's owner, Thuy Nguyen, told KNTV he doesn't know who the bought the winning ticket, but it's likely someone he knows — most of his customers are his friends. "I feel good! I don't even know, I can't sleep tonight," Nguyen told the station.

The winning numbers in the drawing were: 8, 14, 17, 20, 39; Mega Ball: 7.

The jackpot was the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. It started its ascent Oct. 4. Twenty-two draws came and went without winners, Otto said.

Otto said $336 million in tickets were sold for Tuesday's drawing — they had projected $319 million.

"Sales were a little better than we'd anticipated," Otto said. "It was a fun run; it was our first holiday run for either of the big jackpot games."

The winners can choose to be paid over time or in a cash lump sum, Otto said. Based on the $636 million figure, the winners would receive $318 million each over time or $170 million each in cash.

Mega Millions changed its rules in October to help increase the jackpots by lowering the odds of winning the top prize. That means the chances of winning the jackpot are now about 1 in 259 million. It used to be about 1 in 176 million, nearly the same odds of winning a Powerball jackpot.

CHINA SAYS WOMAN DIED FROM BIRD FLU NEW TO HUMANS

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 10:57 Published in Health & Fitness

BEIJING (AP) -- Chinese authorities said Wednesday that a 73-year-old Chinese woman died after being infected with a bird flu strain that had sickened a human for the first time, a development that the World Health Organization called "worrisome."

China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the woman in the city of Nanchang had been infected by the H10N8 bird flu virus, a strain that had not previously been found in people, the Jiangxi province health department said on its website.

This is the second new bird flu strain to emerge in humans this year in China. In late March, the H7N9 bird flu virus broke out, infecting 140 people and killing 45, almost all of them on the mainland. The outbreak was controlled after the country closed many of its live animal markets - scientists had assumed the virus was infecting people through exposure to live birds.

Timothy O'Leary, spokesman for the World Health Organization's regional office in Manila, said WHO officials were working closely with Chinese authorities to better understand the new virus. He said though its source remains unknown, birds are known to carry it and it would not be surprising if another human case was detected.

"It's worrisome any time a disease jumps the species barrier from animals to humans. That said, the case is under investigation (by Chinese authorities) and there's no evidence of human-to-human transmission yet," O'Leary said by phone.

In the new case, the Jiangxi health department said the woman had severe pneumonia before dying Dec. 6 in a hospital in Nanchang.

She had suffered high blood pressure, heart disease and other underlying health problems that lowered her immunity, the health department said. Her medical history showed that she had been in contact with live poultry.

The health department said "no abnormalities" have been found in people who had close contact with her. It did not say if they had been tested or quarantined, though China has in previous outbreaks taken those measures.

Experts are cautious when it comes to bird flu viruses infecting humans. They have been closely watching the H5N1 bird flu virus, which has killed 384 people worldwide since 2003. The virus remains hard to catch with most human infections linked to contact with infected poultry, but scientists fear it could mutate and spread rapidly among people, potentially sparking a pandemic.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about ourPRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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