Nation roundup for October 4


Man charged in Web drug scheme

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — FBI agents found him in the science fiction section of a small branch of the San Francisco public library, chatting online.

The man known as Dread Pirate Roberts — 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht — was on his personal laptop Tuesday afternoon, authorities said, talking about the vast black market bazaar that is believed to have brokered more than $1 billion in transactions for illegal drugs and services.

When a half-dozen FBI agents burst into the library in a quiet, blue-collar neighborhood, they abruptly ended Ulbricht’s conversation with a cooperating witness, pinned the Austin, Texas, native to a floor-to-ceiling window and then took him off to jail, law enforcement and library spokeswomen said.

Ulbricht was later charged in criminal complaints in federal courts in New York and Maryland. He’s accused of making millions of dollars operating the secret Silk Road website and of a failed murder-for-hire scheme, all while living anonymously with two roommates whom he paid $1,000 to rent a room in a modest neighborhood.

Federal authorities shut down the website.

Ulbricht has not entered pleas to any of his charges. His federal public defender in San Francisco declined to comment Wednesday. Ulbricht is due back in San Francisco federal court this morning to discuss bail and his transfer to New York, where the bulk of the charges have been filed.

He is charged in New York with being the mastermind of Silk Road, where users could browse anonymously through nearly 13,000 listings under categories like “Cannabis,” ”Psychedelics” and “Stimulants.”

Ulbricht also is charged in Maryland with ordering first the torture, and then the murder, of an employee from an undercover agent.

Stocks take fall as shutdown lingers

NEW YORK (AP) — Investors sold stocks across the board Thursday as a U.S. government shutdown dragged into its third day and the nation inched closer to a critical deadline to raise its borrowing limit.

Stocks opened lower and fell steadily throughout the morning.The Dow Jones industrial average slumped nearly 200 points, but later pulled back from its slide.

Investors fretted that Republicans and Democrats were no closer to ending the budget impasse. In a speech, President Barack Obama said there was only one way out of the shutdown: “Congress has to pass a budget that funds our government with no partisan strings attached.”

Investors also got some disappointing economic news.

The Institute of Supply Management said that sales fell sharply, new orders dipped and hiring weakened at U.S. service companies. The report covers industries including retail, construction, health care and financial services.

The stock market losses on Thursday marked an acceleration of gradual declines from the last few weeks. Stocks have fallen nine of the last 11 days as investors grow nervous about the political crisis in Washington and the hit to the economy if it continues.

Republicans in the House of Representatives, pushed by a core of tea party conservatives, are insisting that Obama accept changes to the health care law he pushed through three years ago as part of a budget bill. Obama refuses to consider any deal linking the health care law to routine legislation needed to extend government funding.

Small plane lands on S.J. expressway

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A small plane made an emergency landing Thursday on a busy street in the heart of Silicon Valley, surprising morning commuters but touching down and stopping without injuring anyone.

The Bellanca Citabria took off from a San Jose airport just before 8 a.m., but the pilot soon notified air traffic controllers that he needed to go back, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said.

Instead, he ended up needing to use the eight-lane Capitol Expressway as a runway and successfully navigated a landing through power lines and cars before pulling over into a right-hand turn lane, San Jose police Sgt. Heather Randol said.

“It required some skill on (the pilot’s) part,” Randol said. “We’re just thankful nobody got injured.”

The fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft is owned by Amelia Reid Aviation LLC. The company operates a flight school, Aerodynamic Aviation, out of the Santa Clara County-owned Reid-Hillview Airport, according to the FAA. The plane took off from that airport.

The school’s owner, Zdravko Podolski, told KGO-TV in San Francisco that a student was behind the controls of the aircraft when it experienced engine trouble at takeoff. The instructor immediately took over and landed the plane.

Podolski declined to name the instructor but described him as an experienced pilot.

“The nice thing is there are traffic lights, so there was a whole empty stretch where cars were stopped, and it was able to land just fine without getting in the way of any cars,” Podolski said.

Gulf Coast braces for Tropical Storm

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — From a tiny, vulnerable island off the Louisiana coast to the beaches of the Florida Panhandle, Gulf Coast residents prepared Thursday for a possible hit from Tropical Storm Karen, which threatened to become the first named tropical system to menace the United States this year.

Karen was forecast to lash the northern Gulf Coast over the weekend as a weak hurricane or tropical storm. A hurricane watch was in effect from Grand Isle, La., to west of Destin, Fla. A tropical storm warning was issued for the Louisiana coast from Grand Isle to the mouth of the Pearl River, including the New Orleans area.

In Alabama, safety workers hoisted double red flags at Gulf Shores because of treacherous rip currents ahead of the storm.

In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency, urging residents to prepare. State Emergency Management Agency Director Robert Latham said local schools will decide whether to play football games. He said the southern part of the state could have tropical storm-force winds by late today.

“I know that Friday night football in the South is a big thing, but I don’t think anybody wants to risk a life because of the potential winds,” Latham said.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also declared a state of emergency, citing the possibility of high winds, heavy rain and tides. Florida Gov. Rick Scott also declared an emergency for 18 counties.

Mont. Dems get Senate candidate

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Lt. Gov. John Walsh said Thursday that his limited political experience will aid his run for the U.S. Senate, announcing a bid that gives Democrats hope for retaining a seat they have held for decades.

Walsh told supporters Thursday morning that he will run for the office that has been the focus of a great deal of speculation since Sen. Max Baucus announced this year that he will retire at the end of 2014.

The 52-year-old former Montana National Guard commander enters the race with just one election under his belt. He won a tight race last year as Gov. Steve Bullock’s running mate.

He said the Senate race will be one of the biggest challenges of his life, but he expects he can win.

“Washington is broken, so we need to take a look at what is happening back there and come together. The people need to work together to solve a problem, and that is not what is happening,” Walsh said in an interview. “I think Washington, D.C., needs someone fresh who isn’t a career politician to go back there and represent the citizens of Montana.”

The up-in-the-air Montana race could help determine control of the Senate.

Republicans, who like their chances in the GOP-leaning state, need to pick up six seats to recapture the Senate majority and are trying to take advantage of geography and history in their quest.

 

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